Where do dead birds go?
Dear Wise Guys:
Where do birds go to die? There are millions of them, and yet we don't see carcasses lying all over the place. I mean anywhere. The only dead birds I see are the unfortunate ones who tempt fate by eating food off the road. Any ideas?
Joe: Bird deaths are actually quite rare. The ones that die are either killed by hunters, charred by power li nes or line-drived by the occasional pro golfer with a vendetta against noisy red-shouldered hawks. (Yeah, I'm talking about you, Tripp Isenhour.) But birds dying naturally? It's almost unheard of. Most of the birds that you see flying around are thousands of years old.
Justin: Why is Joe even allowed to answer questions? Not surprisingly, bird experts have a different take on this. According to Miyoko Chu of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, "scavengers such as crows, raccoons and cats are constantly on the lookout for an easy meal, and they often find dead birds before we do." The size of birds also is a factor. "Small birds can be hard to see when they're lying on the ground around grass, trees or other vegetation, so even insects may consume a small bird before a person happens by," Chu says.
In fact, dead birds (and even live ones) are so difficult to locate that scientists use birders to help track populations in order to estimate the number of annual avian deaths. Each year "hundreds of millions of birds are estimated to die after crashing into windows, and 100 million are estimated to be killed by cats," Chu says. And that doesn't even take into account the much-harder-to-document natural causes.
Joe: I have a parrot that is 900 years old.