Phone towers & bird calls

To: "Terry Bishop" <>
Subject: Phone towers & bird calls
From: "Dave Torr" <>
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2007 18:37:30 +1100
Whilst the figure for cell phone tower deaths of 4-50 million (a huge
range!) in the US is alarming, it needs to be placed in perspective. is a good source of data -
anything from 97M to 976M die in building collisions, 60M from cars, 72M
from poisoning, 39M in Wisconsin alone from cats......

On 22/01/07, Terry Bishop <> wrote:

I don't wish to start another wind turbine debate but found this story of

Terry B
Orange NSW

Wildlife ring tones result in dropped birds
Renee A. James
I have another story to add to my ''now I've seen everything'' file.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, thousands of consumers
have responded enthusiastically to its offer of free endangered species
sounds, re-mastered as ring tones for cell phones. These would be the very
same cell phones that require transmission sites, the ones that scar the
landscape and contribute more towers, metal and waves to our neighborhoods
and open lands. Is it me, or is this the most awkward, and improbable,
marriage of nature and technology ever?

Why settle for a pop song or a sound bite from a favorite movie when your
phone can alert you to an incoming call with the sound of a mountain
yellow-legged frog instead? A press release stated that the organization
offers about 40 sounds, ostensibly for people searching for just the right
ring tone to signify their environmental awareness. For now, the most
popular nature sound for cell phones is the orca whale, but people who
visited the center's Web site also appear to be entranced by the sounds of
the Beluga whale, boreal owl, blue-throated macaw and Yosemite toad. In the
coming weeks, it plans to add the polar bear, gray wolf and many more
species to the list of choices.

As you select your free ring tone from the center's Web site, you can also
download information and photos about that particular animal, aquatic
creature, bird or reptile and read more about what you can do to preserve
wildlife and save the species from extinction. According to Peter Galvin,
the center's director, ''Ringing phones are now starting conversations about
the need to protect endangered species.''

That may well be true, but ringing phones - at least those that utilize a
bird's call - may start another kind of conversation. Paul Schmidt,
assistant director for the migratory birds program at the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, states that cell phone towers are just the latest in
technology towers that have threatened birds for decades. In a Los Angeles
Times article that appeared in November, he claimed ''We're talking millions
of birds dying because of these towers.'' The truth is, ever since the
advent of the lighthouse, birds have been drawn to beacons of light that
provide a warning or a welcome to ships and aircraft. But the proliferation
of towers, due to the broadcasting industry and now, cellular technology,
have dramatically increased the number of lights in the sky across the
country, far away from the coasts and mountaintops that previously housed
these towers. (In 1996, there were 24,802 cellular transmitting sites in
this country. By 2006, that number had grown to 197,576, although not all of
these are individual towers.) Estimates of the annual death toll among
migratory birds due to dangers posed by cell towers alone ranges from 4
million to some 50 million birds.

The Los Angeles Times article quoted another official from the Fish and
Wildlife Service who also has reservations about adding towers to the
national landscape. Albert Manville, a senior wildlife biologist in the
Division of Migratory Bird Management said, ''These structures continue to
grow exponentially and we're going to see more and more problems.''

There is a way to make the towers more wildlife friendly, and it comes at
a high price. Some studies have shown that blinking white lights are less
hazardous to birds than steady-burning red lights, but this type of strobe
lighting is considerably more expensive than a steady light. If tower
builders and cellular companies reconfigure their systems, guess who will
pay the bill for those less harmful lights? (On the other hand, most
communities don't want distracting blinking lights on their towers; they
prefer a steady red light.)

But, back to those wildlife ring tones. You could argue that the Center
for Biological Diversity is simply embracing the genie that can't be but
back in the bottle - cell phones - and using them to call attention to the
plight of all kinds of endangered species. If even a small percentage of
cell phone users learn about the environment and the dangers we pose to a
number of animals through irresponsible or unsafe behavior, that's a good

It just still seems odd to me that the very lifeblood of cell phone
technology, the transmission towers that carry signals from place to place
to place and cut down on those annoying ''dropped calls,'' may result in
more than a few - pardon the expression - dropped birds.

Renée A. James lives in Allentown. Her e-mail address is  and
her blog is http://

''Estimates of the

annual death toll among

migratory birds due to dangers posed by cell towers alone

ranges from 4 million to some 50 million birds.''


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