First posted on 03-09-2012
After discovering the remains of hundreds of birds in an uncapped pipe, Audubon California advocates sealing off exposed pipes. That advice is worth following here in the Ozarks as well.
In spring, birds often locate small openings they can use to build a nest. Some species, such as bluebirds, depend on nesting boxes and cavities since they have no natural ability to construct a nest in trees or bushes. During inclement weather, many birds seek refuge where they can find it, and may seek a pipe as shelter.
Once inside, the birds become trapped. Slick side walls make escape impossible, and narrow pipes prevent birds from opening their wings in order to fly out of the capsule. Audubon California said that openings from 1 inch to 10 inches pose a hazard to most species.
The danger mainly occurs in vertical pipes, or those with a short horizontal stretch that leads to a vertical pipe. Once trapped, birds suffer death from starvation, dehydration or exposure to temperature extremes.
The Audubon California team pulled down a pipe from an abandoned irrigation system and found layers of dead birds, including kestrels, flickers and bluebirds. They also discovered the remains of several fence lizards, which had climbed in only to discover that they, too, could not escape. A date etched on the pipe indicated it had been in place for over 50 years.
Audubon California advises property owners to take a look around their land to see whether vertical pipes, or openings that lead to a vertical drop are present. Sign posts, fences, irrigation systems, chimneys, clothesline anchors made of piping, even stored or scrapped PVC piping are potential problem areas.
Remove the hazards if possible; or cap the pipes, close them off, or place screening material over the openings. Also check for protector tubes placed around saplings. These could pose problems for younger birds. Either seal off the tops or lift them slightly off the ground to provide a means of escape for birds.
The Missouri Department of Conservation has issued disposal units for tangled or discarded fishing line. These PVC units have a vertical component, and the MDC discovered dead tree swallows and warblers tangled in the line inside. The department took immediate action to seal the tubes with pieces of scrap rubber roof sheeting clamped in place and slit in the center. This design lets anglers place scrap line into the disposal units without allowing birds to get trapped inside.
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