Birds vs. Plastics

We hope you are here because you like birds. We certainly do! That’s why we’re shedding light on the detrimental impact plastics are having on them – hundreds of thousands of birds die every year due to injuries and ingestion of plastics.

The most obvious way plastics hurt birds is when plastic items like abandoned fishing nets, become entangled in their legs, feet, bills, and necks. This can cut them and cause infection, but it can also impede their ability to feed, fly and swim. This makes them vulnerable to predators and starvation. Additionally, it can also mean they are not able to care for their eggs and their chicks.

The other issue is that birds often mistake plastics for food which is exacerbated by the fact that plastic may develop food-like smells that actually attract birds.

Scientists have estimates that by the year 2050, 99% of all seabirds will have consumed plastics. This alarming trend is fueled by the constant dumping of plastic waste into our oceans – the equivalent of a garbage truck of it every single minute, 365 days a year. Plastic ingestion poses multiple threats to seabirds, from physical internal injury to ‘plasticosis’ which is when small pieces of plastic inflame the digestive tract, scarring tissue and leading to impaired digestion..

As well as consuming physical pieces of plastics birds are also being poisoned by the tiny fragments of plastics, called microplastics in the water.

Creatures that birds predate on lower down the food chain, like marine worms, fish, and shellfish, are also consuming these microplastics. Research spanning decades has shown dramatic increases in the presence of plastic in seabirds, especially their digestive tracts, dating back to the 1960s

Microplastics release toxic additives used in plastic production, such as BPAs and phthalates, which disrupt hormone regulation, leading to delayed ovulation and fertility issues. They also serve as carriers for pathogens and other chemical pollutants, which can accumulate in the birds’ food sources and ultimately in the birds themselves.

While individual nations may implement regulations to curb plastic use and even disposal, what birds really need is less plastic! To show your support for them sign the EARTHDAY.ORG Petition calling for a strong Global Plastics Treaty which cuts plastic production by 60% by 2040! Do it for the birds.

If you want to learn more about birds watch Wild Hope on PBS – which features three episodes dedicated to our feathered friends:

Seabird Sanctuary

Birds on the Brin

Seabird Sanctuary