Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Effects on the Environment - #2 in a Series

In her first article World Bird Sanctuary volunteer Jennifer Jones talked about the negative impact pesticides have on our raptor population.  Here is the second in her series.

The second thing I want to speak about, that impacts many birds of prey and some other wildlife, can be found in our landfills. 

Landfills contain organic matter, and the biodegradation of that matter produces landfill gases.  These gases are composed mostly of methane.  Landfills dispose of this gas by using Methane Burners; these are typically tall round structures, or smokestacks, which protrude from the ground. 
A hawk whose flight and tail feathers have been singed off by the ignition of a landfill methane burner
Birds of prey hang around landfills because of the abundance, or smorgasbord, of food.  However, due to the lack of trees to perch on, these birds sit on top of the stacks.  The stacks have igniters that cause a sudden flame when the gas reaches a certain concentration.  When the igniter sparks the birds have no warning.  The noise startles it enough to outstretch its wings to fly, but by then it is too late, and the bird’s wings, feet, and face get burned or, worse yet, it causes death.  It is believed that only a low percentage of raptors are rescued due to low traffic volume in a landfill area.  They are just not found in time.

Birds that do survive have to wait until they molt, which could be up to a year, and in that time their muscles will atrophy due to lack of use.  So when their new feathers come in they still need rehab to build those muscles again.
 It will be many months before this bird is able to fly again, if ever
So what can be done?  Write to your local landfill operator and ask them to install structures that deny perching, and provide alternative, higher perches.

Landfills can also be a disaster for wildlife because of:
·      Six Pack rings which can cause strangulation. (We can do our part by cutting the rings before putting them in our trash)
·      Plastic wrap that can cause fatal intestinal blockage (wad it up into a ball and put it in a container before placing it in your trash).
     Discarded fishing line that can get wrapped around various body parts and cut off circulation, often leading to amputation or death.  Because of thoughtless fishermen, fishing line is also found around our lakes, ponds, streams and oceans.  Fishing line is why WBS received one of its permanently injured pelicans (cut discarded fishing line into small pieces to avoid this).

Submitted by Jennifer Jones, World Bird Sanctuary volunteer

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