Sean Rowe, Land Steward at the Kern River Audubon Preserve in California, contacted us recently about a deadly threat hiding in plain sight that has killed millions of birds. In fact, you may have several of these death traps on your home alone. The issue seems to have been noted first out west, where the uncapped PVC pipes used to mark mining claims were found to contain countless dead birds and mummified bird parts–sometimes several years’ worth of birds who made the fatal error of exploring a smooth sided pipe. Any open-topped pipe of any material poses a threat–plumbing vents, metal fence posts, septic vent pipes–if it’s an uncapped tube, it can entrap birds. Sean sent us some great information on the issue, and the simple steps you can take to address it on your own property.
Sean particularly contacted SEANET because of our involvement with monofilament fishing line recycling. The “bins” we use for this are in fact upright PVC tubes with a horizontally facing opening to receive discarded fishing line. One could imagine that a horizontal opening might resemble a potential nest cavity even more strongly than a vertical opening to a bird, and moreover, these receptacles cannot be permanently capped since they must constantly receive discarded line. So far, none of our volunteers monitoring these bins have found a dead bird inside, but we recommend retrofitting the bins to prevent any future entrapments. The Missouri Department of Conservation has a plan available for modifying the bins, and it seems like a pretty simple fix.
For those of you not maintaining a bin, please help by capping pipes and vents on and around your home, and help us spread the word to friends and family. Thanks to Sean for bringing this issue to our attention. The law of unintended consequences has a long reach indeed!