Open Pipes: A Hazard to Birds

An open pipe that is sticking out of the ground vertically, can become a death trap for an unfortunate bird if it falls in. It sounds a little crazy; how could a bird fall down a pipe?

Our feathered friends are most vulnerable at their fledgling stage, when they are learning to fly. Fledglings can become quite off balance, especially when landing. If you have ever watched a bird learning to fly, you know they flutter their wings excessively, and fall often. It can be comical to watch. But once a bird falls into a tall open pipe, there is no escape – even for the most seasoned flier. The bird can’t open its wings wide enough or get enough lift to get out.

This past summer when I was completing stewardship work at Golden Ranches, I noticed something about the heavy duty gates with steel pipe posts. There were flat steel plates sticking off the top of the posts on two out of the four gates.

This made me wonder if the other two gates had open or sealed pipes. So I climbed up and peered in. Yup, they were open, and posed a real hazard to our feathered friends!

As a temporary fix – until we can secure funding for a permanent solution – I covered the pipes with pieces of screen, or cloth bags (these bags really do wonders when you’re in a bind). I secured the materials on with thin wire and an extra layer of duct tape.

But our problem was not completely solved, because there were small open pipes IN the dugout!

Rebecca and I discussed what kind of crazy operation would allow us to reach those pipes. Dugouts tend to be quite deep with steep sides and neither of us were willing to go for a swim in the duckweed! The sensible solution was to wait until winter and seal the pipes when the water was frozen over.

So that’s what I spent my morning doing – snowshoeing to the dugout to cover the 3 open pipes and finish making this natural area safe for birds, large and small.