Give Now  »

wfiu logo
WFIU Public Radio

wtiu logo
WTIU Public Television

Choose which station to support!

Indiana Public Media | WFIU - NPR | WTIU - PBS

Noon Edition

Where Have All the Dead Birds Gone?

A bird's skeleton (rio, Flickr)

Assuming most birds have pretty short life spans, what happens when they die? How come we don't see thousands of bird carcasses lying around?

First, how many birds are there? Given that birds migrate, it's difficult to come up with an exact number for any one location, but it's safe to say that the number of birds in the United States numbers in the billions.

Sparrows And Finches



Although some birds have long lives, most birds that you see, like sparrows and finches, live only a few years.

Which does make you wonder, if so many billions of common birds are dying on a regular basis, why don't we see them piling up on our lawns?

Clean Windows And Cats Kill Birds



One reason is because most birds don't die from old age, they're killed and eaten by predators such as other birds and other animals, especially cats. Another reason is that birds migrate, and many die along the way and end up in rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Of course, some ex-birds do end up on your lawn. If you find one before the neighborhood predator does, don't touch it with your bare hands. Birds, even dead ones, often carry viruses and bacteria that can make people sick.

To deal with a dead bird, wear plastic or some other type of protective gloves to touch the bird. If you're the sentimental type, you can bury it. If not, put the bird in a plastic bag, bag it again, and then throw it away with your regular garbage.

If you find several dead birds at the same time, please look up your state's guidelines for reporting these events. These can be indicators of avian disease events that could impact other animals' health.

Sources And Further Reading:





Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science