Nesting birds often find unusual spots to raise their young, but some unusual spots for western birds are proving to be fatal. According to the American Bird Conservancy, PVC pipe markers used to denote mining claim boundaries are attracting cavity-nesting birds, but once in the pipe, the sides are too slippery for the birds to get back out and too narrow for them to fly. Dehydration and starvation soon set in, and the birds never escape.
There are more than 3.3 million mining claims on public lands throughout the western United States, and up to a million or more birds may be killed annually by this previously unnoticed threat. Mountain bluebirds, western meadowlarks, cactus wrens and other species have all been recorded as casualties, as well as owls, flycatchers, shrikes, sparrows and woodpeckers.
The ABC is urging action to mitigate this threat. The pipes could be capped, crimped, filled or outright removed to safeguard the birds, and several states are already taking such steps.
What steps do you think should be taken to eliminate this threat? Should mining claim owners be liable for bird deaths on their claims? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Photo © Bill Bouton