Stories like this really concern me; especially when they start appearing in mainstream media more often. ABC Australia reports that up to 4,000 birds in a small area of Western Australia have been found dead in the past five weeks and 200 dead swallows were recently found in another West Australian town. Cause of death – unknown.
Natural causes? Coincidence? Maybe.
In Austin Texas on January 8 2007, dozens of birds were found dead in an city street, but officials said preliminary tests showed no dangerous chemicals in the air. Cause of death at this stage – unknown.
In Idaho, thousands of ducks mysteriously died in December 2006. The cause of death was *thought* to be moldy corn.
These are just a few of the recent incidents concerning mass bird die-offs. While in some cases the death of birds in large numbers is a natural phenomena, we are seeing increasing occurrences where there is no explanation, or it’s directly attributable to man’s activities.
Many bird species are very fragile and ultra sensitive to changes in the environment. The old saying of “a canary in a coal mine” is based in fact. A reliable early warning system used by early coal miners was indeed a canary – they would carry them while they worked and if the birds died, it was an indication of methane levels building in the mine.
Sudden, unexplained bird death also helped to raise suspicion of the toxic nature of fumes generated by teflon cookware being heated at high temperatures. Reports of domestic bird deaths connected to teflon fumes go back decades. The birds show no signs of illness, they just drop dead. This isn’t urban legend, DuPont even have a page on their web site warning of the dangers; appropriately worded in corporate-speak of course.
Like the sudden demise of frogs in some wetlands, birds can warn us when something is very amiss in our local environments; and if we ignore these “coal mine canary” warnings, we may also one day wind up like the miners who did.