30 July 2012 Blinded by the Light Posted by: Heidi Ridgley | Leave a comment | Share: This common yellowthroat risks collision with cell towers during migration. © Michael R. Duncan Migrating birds fly high, fast and far from the United States and Canada to Central and South America. But on a cloudy night, the sight of a red light on a communication tower can draw them in and hold them spellbound. Nearly 7 million migrating birds die a year, victims of the 84,000 towers that dot the North American skyline, according to a University of Southern California study, funded in part by Defenders of Wildlife. During stormy weather, clouds obscure the stars and force birds to fly at lower levels without their navigational tools. Blinking tower lights don’t confuse them. It’s the steady-burning red ones. The birds end up circling the tower and run into the dozens of cables, known as guy wires, that prop up a tower. Researchers found the taller the tower, the greater the threat. Of the 84,000 communication towers in North America, only 1,000 or so rise above 900 feet, but they account for 70 percent of the tower-related bird deaths. “That amounts to a staggering 4.5 million birds each year,” says Chris Haney, Defenders’ chief scientist. The study does offer some solutions: Change the steady-burning lights on tall towers, share towers and build freestanding towers to reduce the need for guy wires. “Methods to reduce this lethal mortality are the best long-term solution,” adds Haney. Read more stories from the summer issue of Defenders. Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in Wolf Weekly Wrap-Up Helicopter gunning kills 23 wolves in Idaho; Urge Secretary Jewell to abandon gray wolf delisting proposal — Call your representative by March 14; Washington wildlife agency urged to end support for abolishing federal wolf protections; The latest on Governor Otter’s wolf control board. Two Too Many Development Projects in the Ivanpah Valley While these projects most definitely directly impact a species that has been identified as threatened and is dependent on the habitat where they would be built, Silver State South and Stateline’s approval is most troubling for a bigger reason. You see, this isn’t just an issue for the Ivanpah Valley. Developers and agencies need to be conscious of how and where they plan energy projects all across the country. They need to look at renewable energy planning with a landscape-wide lens, understanding that building in the right places and making an effort to minimize environmental impacts from the start are essential. California’s Rim Fire: Opportunities Rise from the Ashes After California’s devastating Rim Fire, will officials take the opportunity to give nature a chance to fully recover?