People aren’t the only ones in danger of dying because of tweeting. A new scientific study has determined that some species of migratory birds are dying because of tweeting, too. And it’s not just the clever name or the horrific aftereffects of the tweeting behavior that are similar: both birds and people are tweeting to communicate with others, but they’re just choosing the wrong times to do it.
Why Are Birds At Risk Of Tweet-Related Deaths?
Lots of birds sing and tweet and make noises for all types of reasons, and most are able to live their normal lives without causing themselves any noise-related danger. But a recent study that focused on certain types of migratory birds found that when birds were tweeting while flying at night, they tended to lose track of where they were going and ultimately meet untimely ends. Although tweeting while flying at night probably began as a helpful mechanism to make sure the whole group got to where they were going, it has taken a dangerous turn.
Many different types of birds tweet as they fly to keep track of their group and to make sure they’re going in the right direction. Warblers, thrushes, and sparrows all commonly make high-pitched noises as they soar through the air to keep track of their nighttime movements. In areas with lots of human-made light, however, these birds might be getting confused about the noise they’re making. Instead of chirping or tweeting to redirect themselves and their groups, they are getting distracted by the lights. Their noises cause other birds to change direction, leading to large numbers of birds getting off course and even causing them to crash into buildings.
The connection between nocturnal noisemakers and artificial light-caused deaths is getting more clear. An article published by The Royal Society demonstrated the link between birds who communicate via noise at night and the types of birds that are most likely to die by colliding into a building at night. The theory is that when one bird sees the light of a building they start to tweet, bringing other birds in their direction. Other birds that don’t use nighttime sounds to communicate when flying are much less likely to meet their ends on the sides of brightly lit buildings.
These aren’t the only types of birds that are at risk of dying due to artificial light. Illumination itself may cause birds to make changes in their migratory patterns, get less rest than they otherwise would, or change their overall behavior.
Can People Help Save The Birds?
The short answer: yes. Recent observations and studies have shown that as soon as the lights are turned off, the birds revert back to their normal nocturnal patterns. Without artificial light brightening the night sky, the birds stopped making so many unnecessary calls to their fellow fliers, returned to their traditional flight patterns (instead of flying towards the light and encouraging others to do the same), and even flew faster than their lights-on speed.
These findings aren’t the result of some slapdash study or broken-hearted bird lovers observations, they are the result of a 40-year study that recorded over 70,000 bird-building collisions at night. Changes in big-building lighting have made drastic changes in the number of bird fatalities, but researchers say they still need more time and more data to fully explain the ways in which lighting affects birds and their migratory patterns.
Whether you love them, hate them, or never think about them, birds are an important part of our world’s ecosystem. And who knows, if artificial light is this dangerous for birds, maybe it’s doing something negative (albeit less deadly) to us, too.