Into The Air

The Official Blog of Backyard Chirper

Category: Bird Information

How Releasing Balloons Can Hurt Birds

Releasing balloons, as they go fluttering into the deep blue sky, is an old tradition used to celebrate a happy occasion like a wedding or commemorate a sad event like a death.

It’s fun to watch the balloons sail away until you can’t see them anymore, but what goes up must come down.

And when those balloons do come down, scientists say they are killing birds.

“Balloons are a huge threat, not only to birds, but turtles and other marine life,” said Fiona Maxwell, campaigner with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, in an article back in May.

So how are balloons a danger to birds? Read on.

Blocks digestive system

One of the biggest dangers to birds occurs when they accidentally ingest a balloon. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going through a bird’s head when it sees a latex balloon scrap (or whole balloon) but apparently it can look pretty delicious. And when the balloon does find its way into the digestive tract, it’s nothing but trouble.

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Here’s another quote from the article (though it’s not clear who said it): “When its mixed in with stomach juices, the stuff becomes horrible, almost like chewing gum, and it just blocks them up.”

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Why Birds of Prey Make Great Backyard Birds

When you’re outside and you see a hawk hovering over your bird feeders, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? It’s probably something along the lines of Shoo! Get out of here!

Why do we think that? It’s mostly due to the fact that hawks and other raptors prey on the backyard birds we’ve come to know and love. We feed small songbirds to enjoy them, not to fatten them up for birds of prey to gobble them down.

Despite their propensity of eating our favorite birds, having raptors around your yard can actually be a good thing.

Here’s why.

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Rodent control

Probably the best reason to have raptors hanging around your property is rodent control. Depending on your property, you could have a fair amount of rodents running about, even if you don’t see them very often. Most birds of prey will take care of these critters.

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Where Do Birds Sleep at Night?

The quintessential sound of the morning (aside from the awful cry of an alarm clock) is the pleasant chirp of birds. Since we commonly associate birds with the morning, very few of us consider where birds go at night.

During the day, you see birds nearly everywhere, soaring through the sky, standing on ledges and foraging for food. But once the sun sets, they seem to completely vanish. Sure, occasionally you’ll see an owl fly by or hear a Northern Mockingbird singing all night, but for the most part birds are nowhere to be found.

A question we frequently get from bird lovers is “where do birds sleep at night?” There’s no simple one-word answer to that question because it varies widely among species. We’ll break down a few of the most common places.

Trees and Branches

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We’ll start with a pretty common place for birds to sleep: in the trees. Those that choose to sleep in the trees will typically find a dense tree and/or perch themselves up really high. This keeps them sheltered and far away from predators. If a predator does try to sneak up on the bird, the vibrations of it climbing will rouse the bird.

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What Do Birds See?

It’s not crazy to assume birds see the world the same way we do. Except for sharper vision and spectacular views (like the one in our header image, which is from a team of Russian photographers), birds appear to see the same world as us, right? Well, not exactly.

In order to understand what the world looks like through a bird’s eyes, we must first break things down into a few categories.

UV Light

A rough approximation on how birds may see with UV light.

A rough approximation on how birds may see with UV light.

Most birds that are active during the day detect ultraviolet light (that means this section doesn’t really apply to many nocturnal species). Whereas we have three kinds of cone cells in our eyes (which are receptors used to detect red, green, and blue), birds have four. This fourth cone cell is particularly receptive to UV wavelengths.

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How Wildfires Affect Birds

Wildfires are devastating in so many ways. When hundreds of acres burn, not only is the landscape ravaged but people’s lives are often changed forever.

At the moment in California, 13,000 people have been given evacuation orders as 20 or so wildfires rage across the drought-stricken land. While people are the main focus of the devastation (as they should be), animals are also victims of the desolation.

What happens to all the birds that live in or around the wildfires that engulf hundreds of square miles every year? Let’s find out.

Where do birds going during a fire?

The exact behavior of birds during a wildfire is a little unclear. As far as I found, no scientific studies have been done in conjunction with wildfires to monitor precisely how birds react to an approaching wildfire.

Anecdotal evidence says that healthy birds will move away from the fire. Eyewitness accounts have most birds flying away from the fire before they’re put in harm’s way. The reason? Even though fires are tragedies for us, birds and animals have dealt with these natural phenomenons for millennium.

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