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By Justin Cox on June 29, 2017

The squealing and popping of fireworks have made Fourth of July the most common day of the year when dogs run away from home. We talk every year about our domesticated pets as we approach Independence Day, but wild animals like birds are largely excluded from the conversation.

“Fireworks are completely unnatural to the environment for birds,” says Michelle Hawkins, director of the California Raptor Center at UC Davis. “People can relate to their dogs being affected, but it’s also stressful to wildlife and the environment.”

Wild birds closer to fireworks than most animals

Wild birds spend much of their time in flight or perched, which puts them closer to the sound and sight of fireworks than most other animals, including family pets. This isn’t to say that birds are falling out of the sky every Fourth of July — only that they experience trauma similar to that which triggers the flight instinct in dogs every year.

“We’re not saying they stop eating or anything more dramatic than causing stress,” Hawkins says. “But it definitely does affect birds of prey and other wildlife.”

The ruckus gets especially close to wildlife when fireworks are deployed at homes in the country, says Hawkins, who believes general awareness of wildlife could spare the birds trauma. 

Three simple precautions you can take

  1. Wait until dark, when there are fewer birds out in the open air.
  2. Remove all birdfeeders and baths to avoid drawing birds into areas where fireworks will be happening.
  3. Clean up the spent fireworks so that potential toxins are not left in the environment.

You can support wild birds and their health by connecting to your local bird rescue organization. In the Yolo County area, the California Raptor Center invites you to visit and learn how you can get involved. This includes donating to the program, becoming a volunteer and adopting a bird.

This is an updated version of the original blogpost published on June 27, 2016.

Justin Cox is content marketing manager for the UC Davis One Health Institute and the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center.