Monday, May 14, 2007

Birds being killed by wildfire smoke?

You may have read this story already, but it smells a bit funny to us. First, there are clearly some mistakes in the story, as there is no way smoke from fires up in the Panhandle or near Georgia is affecting birds in Miami-Dade. If those birds are being affected by smoke, it's likely smoke from nearer fires in Collier County or elsewhere in Central/South Florida.

Second, we'd like to see support for the claim that this smoke is toxic to birds. What is described in the article sounds a lot like your standard window-kill event; perhaps the smoke is affecting the birds' ability to migrate (by, for example, blocking out the stars at night), but to say that the smoke is affecting their lungs...that sound a bit more far-fetched. The video here appears to have a still of birds grounded near some mirrored glass, but there doesn't appear to be any video of birds actually hitting glass: Anyway, here is the story, you can draw your own conclusions:

*UPDATE*: Here is a link to a video that makes a bit more sense, and doesn't mention "toxic smoke." Check out the chiropractor who has donated his services to the birds!!!

And here is the original "birds inhaling toxic smoke" story:

Birds Dropping From Sky, Flying Into Buildings After Exposure To Smoke
Vets: Toxins In Smoke Are Poisonous To Birds
POSTED: 7:40 am EDT May 14, 2007
UPDATED: 7:51 am EDT May 14, 2007
Hundreds of birds from as far south as Miami are falling from the sky or flying head-first into buildings and dying after being exposed to smoke from wildfires blanketing parts of Florida, according to a report.

Veterinarians said the birds have very sensitive lungs and the toxins in the smoke are poison to them, Local 6 reported Monday.

Video showed birds slamming head-first into buildings and glass in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

"I hear them (hitting glass) all day long," a business owner said. "It is horrible."
Residents in the counties have called wildlife centers to report the dead birds, the report said.
"Something is draining the life out of (an injured bird)," a man said after finding a bird that fell from the sky. "And it seems to be a slow process, which is pretty brutal."
Officials said smoke from the wildfires in Florida disorients the birds and causes them to fly into windows, according to a WSVN report. The birds are dying from either the impact of the crash or suffering from head and neck injuries.

Wildfires started about a month ago in southeast Georgia and have spread into Florida. More than 300,000 acres have burned in both states. The wildfire that raced through the Okefenokee Swamp in southeast Georgia and into Florida was started by lightning more than a week ago.

By Sunday night, it had burned 102,500 acres in Florida and was 30 percent contained. Georgia reported 41 wildfires in the state covering 267,136 acres.

Officials were also fighting a series of other, smaller fires throughout the state.
The fire burning in southeast Georgia and Florida started May 5 in the middle of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It took just six days to grow larger than another wildfire that has burned nearly 121,000 acres of Georgia forest and swampland over more than three weeks. The smaller fire was started by a tree falling on a power line.

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and Georgia's Steven C. Foster State Park inside it remained closed. Haze from the fires has traveled as far south as the Miami area, about 340 miles away.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.


Anonymous said...

>there is no way smoke from fires up in the Panhandle or near Georgia is affecting birds in Miami-Dade

Maybe, maybe not:

According to Dr. Jeff Masters' (founder and head of the Weather Underground) weather blog entry for May 14 (her:, it's entirely possible that at one point smoke from the Georgia/Panhandle area was affecting Miami... Take a look at Figure 1 and the paragraph below the figure.

Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...

Hmm, that's pretty interesting, but we're still not totally sure how you could separate that smoke from the smoke from the other fires.

There has been a bit of chatter about this story on the Florida lists. We're still not sure how the smoke is affecting birds down there, it would be an interesting thing for someone to study.