We see birds in our everyday lives. There are thousands and thousands of birds that we see regularly without batting an eyelash.
But have you ever stopped to think about how many dead birds you have seen in your lifetime?
The short answer is probably “not many.”
This seems insane at first given that there are flocks upon flocks of birds that we see in our yard and out in public.
When you stop and think about it, however, the truth is that you probably haven’t seen many dead birds before.
Why Don’t We See Dead Birds?
The simple answer is that the smaller birds, the ones we see in our normal lives, are simply a victim of the food chain.
Their place in the chain is to eat insects, small amphibians, and other invertebrates. But just like any other animal, there is a higher link in the food chain that makes birds their dinner.
The reason that birds have so many babies is because of their role in the food chain. It is a natural compensation for their role as prey.
It is also a reason why birds are capable of breeding just a year after they are born.
There are certain types of birds that produce exceptionally large numbers of offspring. This is because most of them won’t survive the winter, let alone make it into adulthood where they may become prey for a natural predator.
The most likely reason that we do not see dead birds is due to predators or disease.
The simple fact of the matter is that a predator or scavenger has likely gotten to them first. This can include foxes, cats, rats, dogs, and a plethora of other animals.
These predators are sometimes able to find the bird’s nests and hideouts, feeding on their young.
Since birds are generally pretty small and have a low body mass, it is rare to see them decomposing because that decomposition happens so quickly. That is, if predators and scavengers haven’t gotten to the remains first.
Even if those predators and scavengers haven’t shown up to pick the bones, there are a number of insects that will swarm to the carcass and pick at the remains until nothing is left.
Birds with Illness
Predators aren’t the only natural cause of death for birds, however. Plenty of birds become ill and die just like any other species.
The difference here is that birds will often seek out-of-the-way, secluded places when they aren’t feeling well. A good example of this is that woodpeckers will hide in a hole in trees.
Many sick birds will go to the ground. Since they are sick and feel vulnerable, they will often hide away.
Seclusion and rest can help them to recover in some cases. But in others, they will simply die in their hideouts and decompose before long.
Birds are unlikely to simply drop dead out of the sky. Between predators and natural diseases, they will succumb in solitude or simply be picked clean by scavengers.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Birds Dying?
It can be quite disturbing when large numbers of birds die off or disappear all at once. It can even seem like impending doom is on the horizon for all of humanity.
But there are fairly common events that will occur in the life of birds that can cause them to die off by the dozens, hundreds, and thousands all at once.
One of the most common causes of bird death is that they experience some kind of major trauma, specifically to their heads.
They can also experience heavy trauma to their wings and bodies, particularly if they collide with other birds or the side of a building.
The most common reason for trauma is that flocks get startled. They panic and their agility becomes compromised, leading them to run into one another in the air or with other obstacles such as trees, buildings, wind turbines, radio towers, or electrical wiring.
This can’t be avoided since birds are also naturally cautious and easy to startle.
There are things that can be done to reduce the odds but if the birds panic for any reason, collisions can and will happen, leading to major trauma.
Another major reason that birds die in groups is due to the improper use of insecticides and pesticides, particularly in agricultural crops.
The birds will ultimately feed on grain or insects that have been contaminated by the spray, resulting in poisonings that can grow to entire flocks.
It is also possible that some landscaping chemicals, things such as herbicides and fertilizers, could have poisonous properties if they have been implemented incorrectly.
Farmers and other agricultural entities can help mitigate the number of dead birds by using these insecticides and pesticides in a proper manner.
There are plenty of chemicals safe to use with birds in the area, though they may not be as strong or effective as some of the others on the market.
If you live on farmland and happen to notice that there are fewer birds than usual, this could be the leading cause as to why.
There are some types of birds that actually migrate for the winter. This is because they are not naturally equipped to handle the cold weather.
A sudden snap of cold can even kill winter birds even though birds utilize many different ways to stay warm during the colder winter months.
Freezing generally impacts smaller birds but it can definitely impact any type of bird depending just how sharp the temperature change is and how available shelter is within the area.
Birds can be quite resilient at protecting themselves from the elements but if your area is going through extreme colds unlike any other time in recent history, there is a good chance that the smaller birds in the area will suffer for it.
Like just about any other species out there, birds are susceptible to certain types of illness that can play havoc on their numbers.
Birds are susceptible to West Nile Virus, avian botulism, and the avian flu. There have been instances where large numbers of birds have been devastated by these illnesses.
Depending on the conditions of the disease, it can spread with extreme haste and prejudice. It isn’t uncommon for dozens or even hundreds of birds to die off all at once due to the spread of illness.
One of the biggest culprits in spreading illness is through bird feeders.
Bird feeders are great for attracting birds to view, but if they don’t get cleaned on a regular basis can lead to a rapid outbreak of botulism or avian flu.
Make sure to keep your backyard feeders cleaned on a regular basis to prevent an outbreak of disease from ravaging the birds in your area.
Birds can also be quite susceptible to parasites.
Mites and ticks in particular are capable of spreading disease quickly among a flock. The disease doesn’t necessarily have to be fatal to have a major impact on the flock.
They can suffer feather damage which can prevent them from flying, making them far more susceptible to the wrath of predators.
Because of the natural habitats of birds, this is a difficult thing to prevent. Birds have natural cleaning methods that help them avoid these pests but there is only so much that can be done.
If you have a bird house, make sure that you clean them both before and after the nesting season to minimize the transmission of these parasites.
When birds migrate, they are capable of traveling very long distances without having the appropriate habitat. This means that in some cases, birds can eventually die from the exhaustion that results.
Even when a bird suffering from exhaustion doesn’t die immediately, it can have lingering impacts.
Birds that are exhausted can become disoriented, leading them to crash into obstacles in the air or directly into the ground. The resulting trauma can be enough to kill them.
Most birds are naturally equipped to handle these longer flights, though there are cases where they become disoriented and wind up flying much longer than necessary, resulting in fatal exhaustion.
As mankind continues to take up land, it leads to the destruction of natural habitats for birds. This gives them even fewer options for resting after these long flights, leaving them susceptible to trauma and it can even put them at the mercy of predators.
Pollution is a major killer of birds each and every year with numbers reaching the thousands.
This is either through large events such as oil spills or smaller scale poisonings that are localized.
The pollution generally impacts their nesting areas, food supply, and even their migration routes. All of these factors contribute to the bird mortality rate.
Greater efforts are being made to preserve habitats so that birds have a toxic-free space to live and rest. When toxins reach their area, it can be too late before they realize the hazards to their area.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard.