Not long ago, the conservation community became aware of a new danger for birds – the open vertical pipes that are all around us. They’re attached to our homes and buildings, in our agricultural fields, used in mining operations, and at construction sites. So what’s the issue for birds? Many birds perch on these open pipes and are very curious. Some are cavity nesting birds like owls, bluebirds, and kestrels that inspect the open pipe and fall in, but are not able to climb back out due to the slick walls of a PVC or metal pipe. This is essentially a pit-fall trap for birds that end with a slow death.
In 2009 in southern California, Audubon staff members discovered a fallen irrigation standpipe that contained the remains of 231 dead birds. In May 2013, researchers in north-central New Mexico found that 27% of hollow bollards and 11% of hollow fence posts contained dead birds, mostly Western Bluebirds. Rooftop vents for public toilets in remote hike-and-bike settings are also a death trap for curious birds like the Eastern Screech-Owl.
After hearing about this problem, we soon scoured our yard and rooftop for open pipes. We checked all fence posts to insure they were capped. On our house’s roof I found 3 open vents that I quickly covered with breathable hardware cloth and a hose clamp. This took just a few minutes and cost a couple of bucks. It will keep rodents and roaches out as well. Capping all of the vertical pipes on our property gave us piece of mind so we’re not accidentally contributing to unnecessary bird deaths. Check your property for open pipes and get them covered. Do it for the owls.