Vehicles have become essential for our human society to transport us, and our goods from place to place. Vehicles are large, metal, fast moving objects which can directly strike birds that are traversing the road (especially if the bird is ground dwelling or low flying) or startle predators or scavengers in ditches by noise and bright lights, leading to bird collisions with the car. In both of these cases, injury or mortality are common for birds.
But we can be more aware and more vigilant about the threats that road strikes have on birds.
Dusk and dawn are active times for many birds - especially those species that are ground dwelling and more likely to be hit when roads are just beginning to be busier for the day.
We also have to consider that many species will be on the move in late March and early April when migratory birds return and are looking for food and mates - and reproductive distractions means that they are not as vigilant as they could be about where they are flying. This pattern is repeated again in late summer and fall when young of the year leave the protection of their parents, who are less vigilant, and more likely to make costly mistakes.
What Not to Do
We know that littering is bad. But it may surprise you to know that most people have a different perception between artificial and organic litter. There may be hesitation to throw out plastic garbage from the car window, but that apple core or banana peel; it's organic, right? It will “break down”, right?
That 'biodegradable' organic garbage will kill birds - especially owls and hawks.
Throwing food or organic waste from car windows or near roads and trails has been shown to attract high quantities of rodents who are seeking out those sugary food sources - especially in fall, winter, and spring when these are very rare in the natural environment. This influx of rodents in turn attracts predators (such as owls or hawks) close to the side of the road where sudden bright lights, sounds, and speed of a passing car scare these raptors into making a bolt for it, usually right into the side of the passing vehicle.
Please do not throw any waste into ditches. Put waste in its place.
What To Do
Never throw any kind of litter from your car window. Put waste in its place.
Keep your eyes on the road, watch sides for movement and eye-shine.
Watch your speed, if you can't stop within the visible distance ahead of you, you're likely going too fast.
Don’t swerve; let off the gas and hit the brakes, but keep the vehicle straight to avoid collisions with other vehicles.
We can’t control others actions, and sometimes accidents do happen even when we have taken all the necessary precautions, but a road strike has occurred.
It is imperative that the bird be seen by an Authorized Wildlife Custodian immediately to assess damage and treat injuries.