It’s time for America to celebrate the Fourth of July by staging grand fireworks shows in public squares and lighting smaller displays at home. But consider the impact the sight and sounds of these large, vibrant explosions in the sky have on our birds.
Fireworks may not be as delightful to wildlife as they are to us.
Some birds get started from their roost and become disoriented in the darkness and collide with buildings, cars, and trees.
Whether fireworks pose a risk to birds depends vastly on location.
Fireworks Disturb Nesting Birds
Nesting terns and gulls have been known to be disturbed by fireworks along the coast, often abandoning their nests and exposing their eggs to predators.
In 2008, the Gualala Fourth of July fireworks display in California was canceled due to studies that showed that seabirds abandoned their nests after fireworks.
But birds die from other causes when startled by loud noises and explosion in the sky besides flying into each other or into stationary objects in their environment.
Fireworks Cause Smoke Toxins
Smoke from fireworks contains a mixture of sulfur-coal compounds, traces of heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals or gases, such as ozone, sulfur dioxide, and nitric oxide.
These toxins become airborne after fireworks combustion and create dangerous levels of air and water pollution.
The effects of some from fireworks on wild birds have not been directly studied.
Smoke Toxins Impact Humans So Why Not Birds
But a 2010 study found that the toxins and air pollution created by fireworks consistently trigger spikes in human illness and deaths, specifically from respiratory and cardiovascular causes impacting people who remain on the ground below the massive clouds of poisonous gases.
The same gases wild birds fly around in for 45 minutes.
Toxic gases from fireworks are not the only threat.
The pyrotechnic materials such as casings, fuses and other fragments left after the fireworks are detonated or burned end up litter the area with a variety of toxins where they can poison birds, wildlife and children for a long time afterward.
Wildlife and pets also are terrified by fireworks and break leashes, jump fences, and even jump through glass windows in their panic.
John Adams Liked Fireworks
Fireworks are part of the festivities of celebrating of our nation’s independence. John Adams wrote in a letter to Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776, that “the occasion should be commemorated with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires.”
So If you want to enjoy your Independence Day Celebration with fireworks and protect birds, too, the Audubon Society recommends attending a commercial display, rather than setting off pyrotechnics in your backyard.
Commercial fireworks are concentrated in one location, rather than in several places at once.
This allows birds to take off and land again in a “safer” location rather than continuing to flee noises coming at them from all directions.
And professional displays often take into account the natural environment and any impact they might have on wildlife in the immediate surroundings.
Let’s all coexist!