Fireworks scare off migratory birds: They flee and never return

6. december 2022 kl. 10:25
Fireworks scare off migratory birds: They flee and never return
Migratory pink-footed geese are a part of the geese population that breeds on Svalbard. Illustration: DOF.
Geese with GPS transmitters in their collars led a group of researchers to the conclusion, that fireworks scare migratory birds away from their Danish wintering grounds.
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Not only dogs fear New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Danish migratory birds do not enjoy them either and flee after the celebrations.

This is the conclusion of researchers from, i.e., Aarhus University, who have equipped 347 geese with GPS transmitters to observe how they moved.

The consequence of the loud noises was that the geese left their wintering grounds and flew to new areas, further away from people. The geese spent time flying at night instead of resting.

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“We can detect violent reactions in the geese, not just immediately during and after the fireworks, but also long after,” Professor Jesper Madsen from the Centre for Adaptive Nature Management at Aarhus University said in an announcement.

Many geese winter in Denmark—for example, more than half of the population of the pink-footed geese.

Although they often stay in nature reserves that are far from human activity, they are still disturbed by the fireworks on New Year’s Eve, the researchers say.

In addition to the geese flying further away, the researchers could also see that they spent more time after the New Year’s Eve scare gathering food than they did before. It is also a sign that they used some of the energy that would otherwise have been saved over the winter.

On the left are the markings of the geese’s wintering grounds, marked with dots. On the right is the tracked movement from New Year’s Eve, with the lines indicating that the geese are no longer staying at the dots but are moving. Illustration: Society for Conservation Biologi.

Many stay away from the wintering grounds

The additional foraging, the researchers emphasize, could also be a nuisance for farmers, as the geese usually looked for extra food in the fields, and their energy stores were also stretched thin by the short, dark winter days, which made it even more difficult for the geese to quickly refuel.

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Furthermore, the German and Dutch researchers working on the project saw that their geese refrained from ever returning to the place from which they had fled due to the fireworks.

The researchers have interpreted data from 12 days before New Year’s Eve and 12 days after it over eight years. Each goose was followed for an average of two years.

In Denmark, 60 geese were equipped with a collar with a GPS transmitter, and the researchers collected data on the geese’s position every ten minutes.

In the research article, published by the Society for Conversation Biology, the researchers also write that the EU member states, according to the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) are obliged to try not to deliberately disturb birds in protected areas.

They also emphasize that this is probably not what is happening here.

People are unlikely to disturb wild geese on purpose, but the results still show that many geese are disturbed so much that they move away from their wintering grounds.

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