Social Question

LuckyGuy's avatar

What happens to all the dead birds?

Asked by LuckyGuy (36765points) 1 week ago

Every bird dies. Yet, I rarely see a dead bird. Why?

I can look out into my back yard and see hundreds of birds in a day – maybe thousands when a flock of some kind passes through. Every one of them has to die some time. Yet in all the years I’ve been here, I never hit a dead one with my mower.

I know some get eaten. But so quickly?
Do birds go somewhere else to die? Where do they go?
Do you see many dead birds in your area?

(I put this in Social so humor is welcome, but I’d seriously really like to know.)

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45 Answers

canidmajor's avatar

I am in a much more populous suburban area than you, and I do see a fair about (not lots, but three or four a season) in my tiny yard. I have found more since I fenced my yard a few years ago.

I think in your area, they probably do get eaten pretty quickly. I know you have a thriving predator population there that probably get them ASAP.

Even here, we have coyotes and feral cats taking care of things, I imagine they are way more rampant in your neck of the literal woods.

gorillapaws's avatar

I think it has to be predators and scavengers. Nature tends to not let things go to waste.

Patty_Melt's avatar

You said it yourself. They pass through. No matter how many you see, they are not living on the property except for possibly a few. Those which die some way other than as prey would be somewhere in your wooded area.
The fact that you don’t see any on the ground is sign of a healthy ecosystem.
The time you are most likely to see dead birds in a healthy environment is after a snap freeze, when fair weather fowl can be caught unexpectedly by freezing temperatures.

zenvelo's avatar

A visible die off of birds is actually scary to naturalists, because it indicates either a toxic element in the area, or an avian communicable illness.

If you do see a lot of dead birds, absent a weather event, don’t hang around, go call animal control or Fish and Wildlife! They’ll know who to get out to investigate.

Darth_Algar's avatar

“I know some get eaten. But so quickly?”

Nature is an extremely efficient recycler.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Many die perched up high.

Keep in mind that their bodies are fragile things, made for light weight, and overall betterment of flight. Not for leaving remains.

kritiper's avatar

No bird dies of old age, so many are inevitably killed and eaten. But some die of sickness, disease. And the maggots eat them up so fast there is little significant remains to see. And scavengers, like crows and magpies, get their fill.
Who wants lunch??

Dutchess_lll's avatar

What do you mean no bird dies of old age? Where do you come up with that?

LostInParadise's avatar

Other than as roadkill, how many dead animals do you see? Where are all the dead rabbits, squirrels, groundhogs, raccoons, possums, deer, bear and feral cats?

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Well there was a dead possum next to my garage for a month..after he decomposed sufficiently I used one of his bones to secure the lock on the garage door.

ucme's avatar

Golf courses.
Seen so many birdies & eagles sunk there.

stanleybmanly's avatar

If you think about it, the carcasses of dead animals or even insects on display is a rarity compared to the numbers eliminated as a matter of routine. In the cities you can come across the sailcats and flat pigeons in the streets, but any pile of protein left unattended is guaranteed a quick retrieval from the “open buffet”.

LadyMarissa's avatar

I used to find a lot of bird carcasses in my yard. That was back when my female Black Lab was younger. She would stand flat footed in my front yard & as the birds flew over, she’d jump straight up & come down with a poor little fella in her mouth. She never ate them…just captured them & left them for later. Now that she’s 11 y/o, she can’t jump like she used to; so I’m no longer having that problem with her!!!

I had a friend who drove a large truck for a construction company moving their heavy equipment from site to site. Back in 2016 or maybe 2017 he had a Bald Eagle do a nose dive into the windshield of the truck he was driving. He survived but the eagle didn’t. Various animal protection groups researched the cause of death trying to learn why the eagle flew straight into the windshield. I think thet finally determined that he was seeing his reflection in the windshield & thought another male eagle was attacking him. I didn’t see the body of that eagle but I did keep my eyes open while driving for a long time thereafter!!!

Our highway department has a whole crew of people that go out first thing every morning to clean up any flattened animals so the general public isn’t faced with looking at them. That’s one job that I wouldn’t want!!!

LuckyGuy's avatar

Thanks. These are great answers.
The birds have to disappear so quickly or else I’d spot a few – and that is a rarity.

I was wondering if there are die-offs at the end or beginning of their migrations.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Some pull a Johnathan Livingston Seagull.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Another thought…I bet local cats have a 6th sense that tells them when one hits the ground so they can have a thanksgiving feast…Cats are sneakier & faster than most humans!!!

filmfann's avatar

I have stood on top of a lot of skyscrapers, and there are always lots of dead birds there

Dutchess_lll's avatar

And that makes sense. For most any animal that walks the earth a bird would be one bite.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@filmfann That is consistent with the land based predator idea mentioned above.

I might set up an experiment to study this. There are so many predators and scavengers roaming the woods here. It would be interesting to see who takes the dead bird. It could be fox, coyote, possum, skunk, feral cat, neighbor’s dog.

stanleybmanly's avatar

That’s the ticket. And you can bet that a meal free from the risks and exertions in nature film footage will disappear in a hurry.

filmfann's avatar

Their numerous deaths atop skyscrapers tells me they may fly there when they feel weak and vulnerable.

mazingerz88's avatar

My guess is most of those birds who are sick or old and about to die go into the nearest woodland area far from people who would barely notice them unless they’re doing serious scientific bird death research.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

They fly higher and higher and go into outer space and become space junk.

kritiper's avatar

Birds get old, they get sick. They get to a point where they cannot fly. So they sit where they are and starve, or they fall to the ground and starve or are eaten by other animals, scavengers. They do not die of old age.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

@kritiper just what IS your definition of dying of old age then? If system failure due to aging, leaving them vulnerable isn’t it, then what is?

kritiper's avatar

@Dutchess_lll A human may die when the heart gives out, but a full stomach can be had while death takes place. The primary cause of death isn’t starvation, in this case.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Starvation is only one way to die when you’re too old to forage. Infection is another way. Heart disease, COPD. The list goes.on. There are myriad ways to die when you’re too old. Every death can be attributed to a specific failure.
So exactly what is death by old age?

kritiper's avatar

Sure not the same as what happens to animals. And birds.

Patty_Melt's avatar

People in their nineties living in a care facility might not recognize their kids, but if someone gives them a triple dose of medicine and they die the corner does not rule that as natural causes, or old age death. It is murder. So, eaten still alive is prey, not old age.

Quit trying to pick fights on stuff that doesn’t even matter.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I set up a camera and have definitive proof.

i put an invasive species bird out near the tree line about 4 PM. Just as it was getting dark, about 9 PM, a fox came by. He walked around it for about 30 seconds, grabbed it and ran away.

Now i wonder how the fox knew it was there. I know they and other critters roam around all night but I could roam around all night with a flashlight an never see one.
They must have a fantastic sense of smell.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Wait!
I want more details.
What invasive species was it?
Was it dead?
Did you sit there for five hours waiting for something to happen?
Yes, predators do have a keen sense of smell, and most scavengers.

I spelled coroner correctly, above. It changed and I didn’t notice.

mazingerz88's avatar

Read an article few years ago something about house cats decimating thousands of birds. And here in the US somewhere too.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Patty_Melt I’ll PM the details.

gorillapaws's avatar

I keep thinking about this documentary about a dead whale carcass at the ocean bottom and how quickly a small ecosystem exploded around it. Sharks, crabs, etc. all going to work, cleaning the carcass to nothing but bones in a short while. It might have been an episode of “Planet Earth,” or “Blue Planet.” Nature is brutally efficient when there are calories to be had. Nothing goes to waste.

LostInParadise's avatar

@LuckyGuy , I would like to know the details also, and I am sure others would as well. Did you kill the bird? Did you use a time elapsed camera?

Darth_Algar's avatar

@LuckyGuy _“Now i wonder how the fox knew it was there. I know they and other critters roam around all night but I could roam around all night with a flashlight an never see one.
They must have a fantastic sense of smell.“_

Well yeah, it’s a dog species, which generally have much sharper senses of sight, smell and hearing than humans do.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Who signs off on cause of death, anyway? The docs? From what I’ve seen coroners are only brought in in cases of suspicious or violent death.
I imagine a “common” cause of death for an older person would be “Complications of surgery.” Complications that wouldn’t have happened if they were 30.years younger.
Actually, I can’t imagine any death certificate stating cause of death as simply “old age.” It’s going to list something specific…heart attack, infection, whatever.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^In lots of places, coroners are not doctors. So, causes of death can frequently be misdiagnosed. ..

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Coroners are specialists in determining cause of death post mortem. I don’t know if a PhD is required in the field. I would imagine so.

kritiper's avatar

@Dutchess_lll Perhaps you should post the question of human death to another thread. Remember, this one is about birds.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

It led where it led. The point is that if birds don’t die of old age then neither do humans. Something specific kills them….something that wouldn’t have killed them when they were younger.

Patty_Melt's avatar

OMG
Frontal lobotomy much?
That makes no sense, in fact, I think it is so negative sense, it takes away from ten things which ordinarily do make sense.

If birds don’t die of old age, then neither do humans?

By the same supposition…
If birds don’t read, then neither do humans.

If birds can’t pass a geometry class, then neither can humans.

Somebody stop me. There are a bajillion different ways birds are not like humans.

MrGrimm888's avatar

There are also a bajillion ways, in which birds are like humans. Their anatomy has some differences, yes. But they still are vulnerable to disease, organ failure, trauma, congenital defects, poisoning, and many other things that lead to death.

In regards to “dying of old age,” there is some underlying medical condition which causes it… That goes for every living thing on Earth…

LadyMarissa's avatar

I think the terminology is “natural causes”.

Anyway, this is so off the topic, I’m out of here!!!

MrGrimm888's avatar

It’s a classic Fluther issue. Jellies get caught up in semantics…

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