Pollution is all around us. It is in the air that we breathe, the water we drink and the food that we eat. But humans are not the only ones combating the problems of poor air quality and chemically laced food and water. The animals of our planet are in crisis, as well, especially the birds.
Some people just want some peace and quiet, and apparently, so do the birds. The University of Colorado at Boulder has conducted a three-year study that proves that noise pollution affects birds and their habits. The biggest problem that birds face when there is too much noise is their ability to communicate. Birds that vocalize at lower frequencies are easily drowned out by noise pollution, affecting their ability to attract a mate and socialize with the other birds in their community. But finches and other birds that vocalize at a higher frequency appear uninfluenced by the hustle and bustle of noise pollution--apparently ignoring the mass exodus of their fellow, winged friends.
Birds that are considered "water birds" are greatly affected by what is known as oil pollution. According to National Geographic, approximately 500,000 water birds are killed every year due to oil spills. When birds unexpectedly happen on an oil spill in their home water area, the oil coats their feathers and causes them to stick together. Feathers ordinarily provide a waterproof protection for birds, but when the feathers are covered in oil they lose this quality. This causes some of their skin to become exposed and at risk to the elements. Birds who attempt to clean their feathers will often ingest the oil and become ill or even die from poisoning.
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There is such a thing as too much light, at least, in the bird world. Bright city lights look beautiful at night when viewed from a distance, but that is no consolation for the bird that can't find the way home. Birds use the bright stars in the sky to determine the route for the next day, and when the city lights interfere with their view, birds can become confused and disoriented. World Migratory Bird Day explains that light pollution can affect the flight patterns of birds, rendering their usual migration paths impossible to follow. City birds are also finding it very difficult to sleep with all of the bright lights, and some birds have become uncharacteristically active at night. Unfortunately, light pollution also causes some birds to succumb to deadly collisions with buildings and other objects in the sky that may be difficult to see when "blinded by the light".
Think twice before you send that helium balloon up into the sky. Heavy winds commonly lead balloons to the ocean, and many a bird has been found with a balloon string hanging from his beak or wrapped around his neck. But balloons are just the beginning. The University of Michigan reports that municipal, agricultural and industrial waste account for the majority of water pollution throughout the world. Pesticides and heavy metals that are leaked into rivers, lakes and streams can cause illnesses and death in birds, threatening individual species. Water pollutants can also reduce the amount of oxygen in the water that eventually kills the fish. Birds that rely on fish as a source of food will often need to move to other areas to feed, causing an upset to the natural balance.
Poor air quality due to smog and noxious gases can have a devastating effect on the bird population in dense areas. Not surprisingly, these pollutants have even drifted up into the polar regions, putting the lives of arctic birds at risk. According to PowerWorks Incorporated, birds have very high respiratory rates, which make them even more susceptible to pollutants in the air and to airborne impurities.