A recent study found that electronics can interfere with bird migration. This is because the way birds navigate – by a magnetic compass – can be affected by something as small, like the signal from a tent radio. Many of the things we use on a regular basis may be completely harmless to humans, but may be having a detrimental effect on the wild bird population, as they interfere with birds’ ability to navigate.
The effect of electronic devices on bird migration was discovered accidentally when Henrik Mouritsen, a researcher at the University of Oldenburg in Germany, realized his research birds weren’t behaving as they were supposed to. Eventually, he says, a collegue suggested padding the cage with aluminum plates. When this corrected the birds unusual behavior, they realized that the aluminum had blocked out the magnetic ‘fuzz’ from electronic devices, which had been affecting the birds’ sense of direction.
This was not something that had previously been considered an issue by researchers, and illustrates how our technology may be affecting wildlife in ways that we hadn’t thought of.