Fireworks Are Dangerous For Birds. Here's How To Enjoy Responsibly. When fireworks go off in the vicinity of birds, the results can be fatal. Stick to commercial shows, experts say.
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This 4th Of July, Think Of Your Feathered Friends As You Plan For Fireworks

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This 4th Of July, Think Of Your Feathered Friends As You Plan For Fireworks

This 4th Of July, Think Of Your Feathered Friends As You Plan For Fireworks

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Independence Day is just around the corner, and we know our dogs and cats may not really appreciate those bombs bursting in air. But what about our other animal friends who might be in the air? Well, that is a question for Ray Brown.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Tweedly-deedly-dee, tweedly-deedly-dee, tweedly-deedly-dee, (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: A bird show - I like that. I love birds.

MCCAMMON: Ray Brown hosts "Talkin' Birds," and he joins us now to talk about birds. Hi, Ray.

RAY BROWN: Hi there, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: So give us an idea. What is the threat that fireworks pose to birds?

BROWN: There are a few threats, really. I think the biggest one, though, is the noise, and you were talking about our pets, for example. Well, birds have something of a similar reaction when they hear that sound. They tend to panic and take off from wherever they are and fly around in the dark and crash into things.

MCCAMMON: Yeah, and there've been a few cases of this documented, right? The Audubon Society, I think, said something like 5,000 red-winged blackbirds died on New Year's Eve in 2010 after an illegal fireworks show in Arkansas, and there've been others.

BROWN: Right. You know, as bad as the Fourth of July fireworks can be for birds - and they can be pretty bad - it's probably worse at New Year's Eve because then you have big groups of many species of birds that are roosting together in big flocks. So you just have that great number of birds that can be dispersed by the sound of those fireworks and then go crashing into things as happened there and it was in Beebe, Ark., I think in 2010.

MCCAMMON: So I worry - I mean, I worry about the birds, but I also worry that we're bumming everyone out before we head into the Fourth of July celebrations here. Ray, is there any solution, or do we just have to cancel it all?

BROWN: Well, you know, some places have banned fireworks altogether. There was a town out in California that tried to ban them. There was a lawsuit by the citizens of the town. It was a two-year legal battle. The Supreme Court of the state eventually ruled in favor of the ban, so that does happen. On the Galapagos Islands, they've banned fireworks. What's interesting, though, is there they make an exception for fireworks without noise.

MCCAMMON: Wait, what?

BROWN: I know. It does reduce the fun for a lot of people but, you know, if you're having these fireworks really away from big populations of birds, of course, the problem is much less. You're just not going to affect that many birds if you're doing it in the city, for example.

MCCAMMON: And I think I read somewhere that one big central show is probably better than lots of people shooting them off in their backyard if you're talking about the impact on the birds.

BROWN: Absolutely because, you know, for one thing, there are many fewer locations in a given area where this will happen. So it kind of gives the birds a chance to get away from wherever that sound is coming from. They're not going to fly from one area and then be bombarded with sound from another area. Also, the municipal groups that are doing these shows generally are following some rules and regulations that would help protect the birds, so they're not placing these fireworks particularly in areas where birds are nesting, for example. That's another big issue because people like to watch fireworks at the beach, and you end up with instances where birds are nesting on the beach still at this time in the summer and being trampled by people trying to walk along the beach and look at the fireworks. The Fish and Wildlife Service, for example, has established special rules for fireworks on beaches. So municipal organizations are likely to follow these rules, whereas private consumers maybe not so much.

MCCAMMON: All right. Well, Ray, however and wherever you spend your fourth with or without fireworks, I hope it's a good one.

BROWN: Thank you, Sarah, hope yours is.

MCCAMMON: And I thank you for your time.

BROWN: Thank you so much.

MCCAMMON: That's Ray Brown, host of the "Talkin' Birds" podcast.


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