End Plastics

Angry Birds Are Angry at Plastic

The Angry Birds are flapping up to the plate and making their voices heard this Earth Month. Exclusively, they are revealing to the world, using clever messaging inside of their games why they are SO angry. It’s plastic. Why? Because plastic pollution is becoming the daily diet for birds, especially seabirds, as a staggering 90% of them consume plastics and many of them get sick with a disease named as a badge of shame for plastics: plasticosis.

This plastic induced illness injures, hurts, and kills seabirds and by 2050, every seabird alive will have ingested plastics. No wonder these Angry Birds are so angry! How can this be happening? Well it’s simple: Every single year, at least 14 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean, making up 80% of all marine trash that’s found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. 

So what really is plasticosis? Plasticosis is different from many other diseases as it’s not caused by viruses or bacteria, instead it is directly caused by plastic ingestion. Birds are enticed into eating debris because it smells like food. When birds digest these plastics, it digs into their stomach tissue causing excessive scarring, preventing them from healing properly. Too much scarring can eventually change their stomach structure and eventually their tissues start to break down. These Angry Birds have a reason to be angry — they’re suffering the consequences of our actions.

Birds diagnosed with Plasticosis will experience a decreased appetite and reduced nutrient absorption because of limited space in scarred stomachs, leaving these damaged birds more susceptible to parasites and other health issues. In one study, researchers found that 1,288 marine species have ingested plastic, which rises to 1,565 species including terrestrial birds. And as plastic pollution continues to increase with plastic production, it won’t just be Angry Birds and their friends  – it will be all species impacted by plastic pollution that will need saving. 

Specifically, flesh-footed shearwater birds are the most contaminated birds on the planet.  off the Eastern coast of Australia on Lord Howe Island – there’s evidence that the population of these birds has declined by as much as 29% over the last 3 generations, and it’s widely because of plastic ingestion. One research team found 64 grams of plastic, made up of 274 pieces, in one shearwater chick. In another study from 2023, a staggering 405 pieces were discovered. This plastic diet can account to 5-10% of a chick’s total body weight, severely compromising their health and chance of survival.

While seabirds are largely impacted by plastic pollution, terrestrial birds also face significant threats from this man made threat too. . As plastic waste accumulates in their habitats, birds use it to build their nests, leading to entanglement. In a research review which analyzed over 106 studies, they discovered injury and death of birds in all 15 cases that reported incidents of plastic entanglement. More specifically, a study done in 2014 found that 11 of 195 American crow nestlings were entangled with  plastic in the nests. These nestlings had significantly lower fledging success rates and had bone malformation. This highlights the importance of addressing plastic pollution to protect both searbirds and terrestrial birds. 

Join the Angry Birds and get angry about plastics and the injury, deaths, and pain it inflicts on our feathered friends. Urgent responses are needed to mitigate these effects, and you can help today by signing EARTHDAY.ORG Global Plastics Treaty Petition, and stop using single use plastic!