Do Fireworks Kill or Hurt Birds?

Oh, summer. Sunlight, grills, campfires, and color—especially in the sky—abound. Summer fireworks are a tradition for many.  

They're as synonymous with July 4 as a delicious burger and the red, white, and blue. Birders may hesitate. Can fireworks kill birds? Know this to protect your backyard birds.

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman, Birds & Blooms bird experts, answered. The authors noted that fireworks can terrify wild birds, like many pets.  

“Sometimes they are deathly afraid. Fireworks near where 5,000 red-winged blackbirds, grackles, and others were roosting on New Year's Eve 2010 killed them.

Many birds soared up in panic and smashed into buildings or wires due to the noise. Mass death is rare and occurs when many birds are roosting or nesting together. But noisy nocturnal blasts will upset birds and other wildlife.”

Dr. Kevin McGowan, senior course developer and instructor for The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Bird Academy, agreed that fireworks can disrupt birds. He analyzed the 2010 occurrence Kenn and Kimberly recounted for National Geographic.  

Kevin argues that when many birds converge in one place, it can affect nesting colonies. “They might abandon eggs or chicks if they get scared and fly off—that sort of thing.”

He says fireworks smoke is bad for birds (and people), but in tiny doses it's tolerable. Kevin adds that federal rules prohibit firing fireworks near active bald eagle nests.