Fireworks Make Birds Lose Their Heads

Fireworks Make Birds Lose Their Heads

The effects of fireworks on wildlife have been known for a long time, but there have been no hard facts or figures on the damage caused. The University of Amsterdam has studied the behavior of birds during New Year’s fireworks displays, and the impact on birds is disastrous: birds lose their heads completely and expend a great deal of energy at a time when they need it most.

This new report, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, precisely outlines the consequences of New Year’s festivities on birds. Within a five-kilometer radius of the fireworks, there are, on average, 1,000 times more birds in the sky, and this figure can even increase to 100,000 times more during certain displays, with effects felt over a 10-kilometer radius. The detonations, along with the light, induce panic among the birds, causing them all to take flight. However, not only that, the tracking of bird movements shows that their flights become “completely erratic.”

In panic, birds expend excessive and unnecessary energy. Flight trajectories lose all sense, and the birds become exhausted. Some species, such as ducks and geese, also start flying at abnormally high altitudes.

An Energy Expenditure That Weakens Birds in Winter

Nevertheless, most birds survive. However, this loss of energy, especially in the heart of winter during New Year’s, is a significant problem: all these burned calories are essential for the birds’ survival during the cold season. Fireworks thus lead to a greater risk of mortality, not only at the moment due to the triggered panic but especially in the following weeks if the weather conditions are harsh and if food is scarce. The study has indeed shown that birds spend much more time than usual searching for food during the 11 days following a fireworks display to compensate for all the lost energy.