As summer heats up, so do fireworks displays. These bursting blooms of nighttime fire are a key component of many summer celebrations, not just for the Fourth of July, but also for theme parks, community celebrations, fairs and even private events like barbecues, reunions and weddings. While we may oooo and aaah over the colorful show (I do love fireworks myself), birds aren’t always so impressed with the pyrotechnics.
In fact, fireworks can be dangerous, even deadly, to wild birds. If live fireworks come into contact with birds, they can cause severe burns and injuries to a bird’s plumage, limbs, eyes and skin. The chemicals used in fireworks, including combustible powders and inks, can also be toxic if ingested, even in small quantities. The loud concussions made by fireworks can damage birds’ sensitive hearing or may cause enough emotional and psychological stress to drive birds away from nests, and in their confusion, they may collide with nearby obstacles, including buildings, vehicles or power poles. Finally, fires caused by reckless fireworks can destroy critical habitats, including food, shelter and nesting sites.
While we may not be able to control how a city, community or theme park sets off a professional display (though we can hope they do it responsibly and with regard to local wildlife), we can take steps to make our personal fireworks safe for nearby birds.
- Remove feeders and baths several hours before lighting fireworks. This will discourage birds from being in the area and ensure that no ash, debris or other residue contaminates food or drinking water. If it is not possible to remove bird accessories, cover them before using the fireworks or thoroughly clean them afterwards.
- Wait until well after dusk to ignite fireworks. Dusk is a prime feeding time for many birds, but after the skies fully darken there will be far fewer birds active nearby to be affected by the fireworks.
- Do not use any fireworks near bird houses, nesting areas, brush piles or other shelters. Small birds may be invisible under dense cover, but the effects of fireworks used nearby can be drastic. Keeping fireworks away from these areas also reduces the risk of fire from stray sparks that can cause devastating fires.
- Clean up residue promptly and thoroughly, including casings, bits of paper and ash. This debris can still contain toxic chemicals and other poisons that can harm birds that may ingest them, even hours after fireworks are spent. Sweep up debris as much as possible rather than rinsing it away, which could concentrate toxins in nearby water sources.
- Follow all the proper fireworks safety tips to keep friends and family members safe; many of these common sense precautions can also protect pets and nearby wildlife, including birds, from unnecessary trauma or injuries caused by fireworks.
An even better option is to consider abstaining from personal fireworks altogether. Instead of shooting off rockets, flares and other small fireworks from your home or neighborhood, visit a local celebration for a more spectacular show that is professionally planned and executed. These shows must comply with safety regulations, which often include consideration for nearby wildlife and protecting local habitat.
The birds may not share our enthusiasm for explosive bursts of sparks and flame in the nighttime summer sky, but they shouldn’t be at risk from the fun we choose to have. Make sure you’re keeping birds and other wildlife safe while you enjoy your summer celebrations!
Get more fireworks safety tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety
and keep everyone safe whenever you use fireworks!