TV Tower Means Death to 400 Songbirds

As many as 400 songbirds (search) were killed in one night after they flew into wires holding up a television tower.

The deaths may spur the creation of a group to study the dangers communication towers pose to migrating birds, said specialists with the Department of Natural Resources (search).

"It's an issue that has been with us for decades," DNR avian ecologist Sumner Matteson said. "But we really haven't done anything about it."

The birds were killed the night of Sept. 13-14 at the WMTV (search) tower.

"There were birds all over the place," said Steven Ugoretz, a DNR environmental specialist who works on tower-related issues.

Searchers found 172 birds around the base of the 1,100-foot tower. Crows, cats and other scavengers took another 200 or more, and Ugoretz estimates more birds likely died because no one searched a heavily wooded area just north of the tower.

A similar kill occurred the night of Sept. 7-8, Ugoretz said.

Such kills are not unusual during spring and fall migrations, though Ugoretz and Matteson said they are an increasing concern because of multiple threats to the world's songbirds.

Most of the dead birds Sept. 14 were warblers. Other birds included red-eyed vireos, American redstarts, ovenbirds, common yellowthroats and a rose-breasted grosbeak.

Matteson and Ugoretz said they want to form a task force of bird experts and communications industry representatives to study the issue. Possible solutions include using lights to illuminate wires and changing the blinking frequency of red warning lights, Matteson said.

A telephone message left for WMTV's general manager was not immediately returned Wednesday.