Fireworks are an amazing part of summer celebrations, from Memorial Day and Fourth of July to backyard barbecues, family reunions, summer weddings, city festivals and more. Even beyond summer, fireworks are popular for New Year’s Eve bashes, national commemorative days, concerts and sporting events. But what about the birds that have to share the sky with fireworks?
How Fireworks Hurt Birds
It is a common misconception that because most fireworks are used at night, they don’t affect the birds because birds aren’t nearly as active after dark. This logic disregards nocturnal birds such as owls and nightjars, but it is also completely false. Fireworks can be dangerous, even deadly, to all types of birds, no matter when the pyrotechnics are lit. Different hazards that fireworks pose to songbirds, hummingbirds, shorebirds, ducks, raptors and more include:
- Injuries: If active fireworks come into contact with birds in any way, they can cause severe burns and other injuries to birds’ plumage, eyes and skin. If the bird survives, it may be subject to severe infections because of the composition of fireworks and how the wounds may be contaminated. These injuries can take weeks or months to heal, or the bird may be permanently disfigured and unable to survive.
- Toxic Contamination: Dyes and inks used in fireworks’ packaging can be toxic to birds, even if ingested in very small amounts from ash or debris that may contaminate food or water sources. Different chemicals and compounds that create specific colors and patterns in fireworks, as well as their manufacturing process, can also be toxic. Some fireworks can even contain known toxins such as arsenic, lead and mercury.
- Pollution: Fireworks create a wide range of pollution, including air pollution from the dense smoke of large displays to the ash and debris left by even the smallest backyard fireworks fun. When fireworks are not cleaned up properly, those pollutants can contaminate birds’ habitats and wash into local water sources, including creeks, rivers and lakes.
- Habitat Loss: When fireworks get out of control, the resulting wildfires can destroy large tracts of natural habitat, including grasslands, wetlands and forests. Those habitats are not easy to replace. Recovery can take years, during which time local bird populations will suffer as they no longer have suitable food sources, shelter or nesting areas.
- Noise: The loud booms of fireworks may seem impressive to us, but it can damage birds’ sensitive hearing. Without the ability to hear predators or distinguish songs and calls appropriately, birds will be at a marked disadvantage to survive, and may have more difficulty finding mates and raising young. Even without hearing damage, loud noises can startle birds and they may accidentally collide with obstacles or otherwise sustain injuries during fireworks displays.
- Stress: The loud noises, bright flashes and unexpected crowds of fireworks displays can cause great stress to birds, particularly during the summer nesting season. Brooding birds may abandon their nests to seek safer locations, leaving eggs and chicks vulnerable to predators and without essential care. Birds that become disoriented from fireworks may collide with buildings, trees, fences, poles and other obstacles, leading to impact injuries or fatalities.
See also: What Keeps Birds Out of Your Yard
Bird-Friendly Fireworks Safety
Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the risks to birds and other wildlife without completely giving up the fun of fireworks. To keep birds safe while enjoying pretty pyrotechnics:
- Take down birdfeeders and birdbaths a few hours or the day before the fireworks are planned. This will encourage birds to temporarily seek other resources so they won’t be nearby when the fireworks are used. After the fireworks are finished, replace the feeders and baths and the birds will quickly return.
- Plan to use fireworks as far as possible from feeding areas, brush piles, active birdhouses and other spaces where birds are found. Not only will this be less trouble for the birds, but it will be safer to keep live fireworks away from potential fuel sources or other dangerous areas.
- Clean up all debris as quickly as possible. Be sure to get even small bits of paper wrappings, spent casings and other detritus so it will not endanger birds or pollute the environment. Of course, store all fireworks debris in fireproof containers to be sure it is thoroughly extinguished before disposal.
- Coordinate with neighbors to consolidate where and when the fireworks are used. Not only will this help everyone enjoy a larger, longer display, but birds won’t be as disturbed by smaller displays in many locations and over a longer time period.
- Follow all local laws and safety tips to keep people and pets safe. Many of these tips are also helpful to keep wildlife, including birds, safe from fireworks problems or accidents.
The Safest Fireworks of All
The absolute safest way to protect birds from fireworks is to avoid any personal displays and instead enjoy professional fireworks shows. Professional displays are designed to protect local habitats, comply with local laws and safeguard wildlife to the best of their ability, and you don’t have any risk of discouraging your backyard birds if you aren’t setting off fireworks in your backyard. By taking care to protect birds from fireworks, you will truly be able to celebrate!