5 Jan 2011

Dead Birds Falling From the Sky and Fireworks

Red-winged Blackbird by Rob Travis

There have been reports all over the media about dead Red-winged Blackbirds falling out of the sky in the United States and Jackdaws in Sweden from the BBCDaily MailLos Angeles Times and the Huffington Post,. Social media such as facebook and twitter have quickly spread these reports round the world.

In my opinion the Red-winged Blackbirds in Beebe Arkansas were affected by the fireworks on New Years Eve. They would have been at a roost site close to where they died probably sharing it with Starlings, Common Grackles and Brown-headed Cowbirds. By the time the fireworks were going off all these birds would have been at their roost site and with the sudden explosions and flashes of light the birds would have all left the roost in panic. Red-winged Blackbirds tend not to fly at night so would have been completely disorientated being able to see one minute as a firework lit up the sky and then not the next. They probably flew into buildings and overhead wires. I suspect the same thing happened in Sweden where up to fifty Jackdaws were found dead.

I witnessed something similar in Belfast at halloween in October 1999 when pyrotechnics expert Christopher Bertonneau did a dry run for the Millenium New Years Eve Party in Belfast. The fireworks were launched from a bridge over the River Lagan and a pontoon on the river. This was very close to the Albert bridge a renowned roost site for Starlings. The first bangs startled the birds and they were flying everywhere. They were flying into people, they were flying into the large plate glass windows of the Waterfront Hall, some were flying straight into the road. Then there were birds that had obviously flown into buildings and had sort of bounced/flew back before falling. I believe a few hundred were found dead in the area the following day.