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Disaster strikes! Birds are getting killed!

By: Jessica Sun

Birds love to hang out on power lines. Sometimes they even get electrocuted by the power lines. But they could have got injured or even killed by people before they got zapped.

Avians found dead along power lines are often assumed to have died from electrocution, especially if their bodies show burns or singeing, said Eve Thomason, a wildlife biologist at Boise State University in Idaho. But it seems that people shooting birds has become a more of a problem now. In five sites in the western United States, two- thirds of the birds found dead under power lines have been shot or injured by humans.

“We really need X-rays to understand fully what may have happened,” said Ms. Thomason, who used to work for a utility surveying power lines to assess the risk they posed to birds. Ms. Thomason and her colleagues walked a long way, collecting 410 bird carcasses. Back in the lab, the researchers X-rayed the birds, looking for evidence of gunshot wounds or other trauma. “Most of them were coming back with bullet fragments in them or shotgun pellets,” Ms. Thomason said. Of the 175 birds for which they determined a cause of death, 66 percent had been shot. The scientists reported all deaths were attributed to gunshots. But at another, shootings accounted for 39 percent of deaths and a similar percentage of deaths were from electrocution.

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