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How fireworks impact birds' behavior on New Year's Eve

How fireworks impact birds' behavior on New Year's Eve Photo: How fireworks impact birds' behavior on New Year's Eve (GettyImages)

The study conducted by ecologist Bart Hoekstra from the University of Amsterdam has found that fireworks during New Year's Eve cause a significant increase in bird flight activity, impacting birds up to 6 miles away. The study suggests implementing fireworks-free zones and quieter light shows to mitigate these effects on bird populations, according to SciTechDaily.

The study utilized weather radars and bird counts to analyze the impact of New Year's Eve fireworks on birds. Findings indicate a dramatic increase in bird flight activity during fireworks, with the most intense effects within the first 5 km but extending up to 10 km.

On average, the number of birds in the air near fireworks was 1,000 times higher than on other nights, with peaks reaching 10,000 to 100,000 times the normal number. The research highlighted the acute flight response of birds to the noise and light of fireworks, with millions of wintering birds in countries like the Netherlands being affected.

The study observed that the consequences are more severe in open areas like grasslands, where larger birds winter, and less pronounced near forests and semi-open habitats where smaller birds reside.

Fireworks impact

Last year, IBED researchers found that fireworks significantly impact geese, causing them to spend 10% more time searching for food over the following 11 days. This extra time is needed to replenish lost energy and adapt to new foraging areas they flee to during fireworks.

Hoekstra's study focused on which bird species take flight during fireworks and when this occurs. He used data from weather radars on New Year's Eve and normal nights and bird distribution data from Sovon (Dutch Center for Field Ornithology) based on volunteer bird counts.

The analysis revealed that nearly 400,000 birds in the Den Helder and Herwijnen radar study areas took flight immediately when fireworks began on New Year's Eve. Larger birds, like geese, ducks, and gulls, flew at high altitudes for up to an hour, posing risks like exposure to harsh weather and potential accidents.

Environmental concerns

The inception of this research stems from the need to understand the impact of human activities, like fireworks, on wildlife. Observations of water birds reacting strongly to fireworks led to broader investigations across the Netherlands, revealing the widespread effect on various bird species.

This study is part of a growing body of ecological research that seeks to balance human cultural practices with wildlife conservation, emphasizing the importance of adapting our celebrations to minimize environmental disruption.