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LitterBirds – Plastic Pollution

The Problem with Plastic Pollution

Reducing Bird and Wildlife Plastic Entanglements

Urban Bird Foundation is working to reduce the impacts to birds from plastics and trash in communities. Anecdotally, we are finding increased litter in the urban and suburban areas where we work to conserve bird populations. This plastic pollution is incredibly harmful to birds – impacting their health and survivability when ingested and causing injuries and death by entanglement. Plastic pollution and debris are now reaching levels that affect all levels of the marine food chain, are infiltrating parks, creeks, rivers and every possible wildlife habitat, and are ultimately impacting humans and our planet.

Bottle caps, cigarette lighters, bags, straws, bottles, fishing line…The global problem affects more than wildlife. Plastics have entered the human food chain, through the water we drink and the fish we eat. The impact on human health is not yet fully known but we at Urban Bird Foundation see the impacts on birds frequently – most obviously through entanglements.

Plastic is Not Just an Ocean Problem

Plastic pollution as marine debris, trash, and microplastics is a global issue

“Everybody’s seen pictures of beaches strewn with plastic,” says Pete Leary, marine coordinator for the National Wildlife Refuge System. “But people in Portland or Washington, DC, generally don’t think of marine debris when they’re forgetting to put their trash in bins in a park.”

When fed to young birds, not only does the plastic occupy volume in the chick’s stomachs and lead to a greater chance of death by dehydration, but sharp plastics can fatally puncture portions of the digestive tract. Some of the plastics may also contain harmful toxins which can accumulate in tissues of the chicks, compromising their survival.

  • 55% of bird orders and 21% of bird families are recorded to be entangled in plastic
  • 36% of seabird species are now known to be entangled in plastic litter
  • 10% of freshwater bird species are now known to be entangled in plastic litter
  • Fishing gear entangles 83% of the 265 entangled bird species globally.

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