The Impact of Communication Towers On Neotropical Songbird Populations

Joanne M. Lopez
Florida International University, University Park Campus, Environmental Studies Department, 11200 Southwest 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199;

Neotropical migrants are birds of the Western Hemisphere that migrate to the New World Tropics (or "Neotropics") for the winter to take advantage of seasonally abundant food and longer daylight hours. Migration is hazardous and every year, millions of birds collide with human-built structures in North America. Presently, thousands of communication towers are located in migratory flyways. Ornithologists estimate that in the 1970s, 1.2 million migratory birds were killed annually by collisions with communication towers. Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) estimates the numbers to be four to five million, a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Forty-seven comprehensive published studies document the deaths of 230 bird species, encompassing over 25 percent of all avian species found in the U.S. Of the 230 species
identified, 52 species are listed either as endangered or threatened. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 brought about the deregulation of communication systems, causing an explosion in the number of communication providers. As a result, the number of communication towers is increasing and its growth rate will be exacerbated by a federal mandate requiring digital television to be available nationwide by 2002. Without the implementation of government regulations, communication companies are not likely to construct bird-friendly towers. Thus, researches are tasked with finding alternative methods to protect birds from collisions with towers.