Could dead birds derail DTV?

If a few bird-loving, environmental wackos have their way, you'll be broadcasting your new DTV signal from an unguyed, 100ft stick so far from your city of service you'll need a map, an ATV and two days' rations just to get to it.

As if you didn't have enough DTV problems, two bird-loving organizations are now claiming that broadcast towers are killing millions of our feathered friends. The groups allege that a tower's red obstruction and beacon lights confuse birds at night, causing them to become disoriented, especially in fog or water-laden air. The tower lights refract off the water particles, creating a lit area the birds use for navigation. Keeping the light at a 90-degree angle causes the poor little things to end up flying in circles, eventually slamming themselves into a guy wire, tower face or even other birds. They then spiral downward, smashing into the earth where they are eaten by nasty ground-based predators.

Just makes you want to cry doesn't it?

The two organizations joining forces to put you out of business are the Friends of the Earth and the FCC (no, not the familiar Federal bureaucrats, but the Forest Conservation Council). The groups have petitioned the real FCC to deny about 40 applications for towers until the Commission “conducts further environmental studies.” They have seized on the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act as reason enough for the Commission to deny the construction of almost any tower anywhere. Unfortunately, the Act makes it almost a crime to cause the death of even a single bird.

Bill Evans, an ornithological consultant, claims to have witnessed bird deaths via dangerous guy wires firsthand. After recording bird distress calls at various tower sites, he said, “Those sounds just hit you inside.” He now runs a website called

Other researchers spin similar yarns. Dr. Charles Kemper, a physician and bird enthusiast, professes to have monitored bird kills at one tower site in Eau Clair, WI, for more than 35 years. Over that time, he maintains that the tower has killed 121,560 birds. His record was 30,000 bird kills in one night.

Of course I was absolutely shocked to learn of these dreadful “facts,” so, I did a bit of research. It turns out that towers aren't the biggest murderers of birds, as the above experts claim — it's cats.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison states that between 7.8 million and 200 million birds are killed every year by the common house cat. Now, my math says that means cats kill 50 times as many birds as all TV towers combined.

But hey, we can't let this wholesale massacre of birds by towers continue. What we need are some more Federal rules to save the little poopers. Here's my suggestion.

First, all birds should be required to wear bird helmets and parachutes. That way they won't break their little scrawny necks when they bump into a tower or guy wire. Second, the other FCC must issue rules requiring padding on every tower and guy wire.

Finally, all those darn red obstruction lights and beacons will have to be turned off. Oh, I realize that may result in a few airplane crashes, but we simply can't continue this bird bloodbath. After all, what's more important, a flea-infested, poop-dropping, Black-bellied Plover or a Tufted Titmouse or a few million jobs and an entire industry?

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