Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Radiation on Birds – Environmental Health Trust


Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Radiation on Birds

Electromagnetic exposure is disruptive to birds, especially migratory birds. Electromagnetic fields have been shown to disrupt the magnetic compass orientation used by birds to navigate (Schwarze, et al., 2016; Balmori, 2015; Wiltschko, et al., 2015; Engels, et al., 2015; Kavokin, et al., 2014; Ritz, et al. (2005). Ritz, et al. (2009). Researchers have suggested this disruption of magnetoreception is due to cryptochrome photoreceptors which allow birds to use built-in receptors as a biological compass. 

Avian development and reproduction has also been found to be affected by exposure to radiofrequency radiation (Cucurachi, et al., 2013; Balmori, 2005). 

“The electromagnetic radiation standards used by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continue to be based on thermal heating, a criterion now nearly 30 years out of date and inapplicable today.”  stated a U.S. Department of the Interior letter that detailed numerous biological effects in birds. 

“As previously mentioned, Balmori (2005) found strong negative correlations between levels of tower-emitted microwave radiation and bird breeding, nesting, and roosting in the vicinity of electromagnetic fields in Spain. He documented nest and site abandonment, plumage deterioration, locomotion problems, reduced survivorship, and death in House Sparrows, White Storks, Rock Doves, Magpies, Collared Doves, and other species. Though these species had historically been documented to roost and nest in these areas, Balmori (2005) did not observe these symptoms prior to construction and operation of the cellular phone towers. Balmori and Hallberg (2007) and Everaert and Bauwens (2007) found similar strong negative correlations among male House Sparrows.”- U.S. Department of the Interior

U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Ruling in EHT et. al. v FCC  stated that “The Federal Communications Commission also completely failed even to acknowledge, let alone respond to, comments concerning the impact of RF radiation on the environment.”  The FCC had been sent studies on impacts to birds but ignored them. 

Dr. Albert Manville, former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Senior Biologist has written to the U.S. FCC on wireless impacts to birds. 

“Wasserman et al. (1984) conducted field studies on 12 flocks of migratory birds subjected to various combinations of microwave power density and duration under winter conditions at Monomet, MA, with birds from 2 additional flocks serving as controls. Increased levels of aggression were noted in some of the irradiated birds suggesting effects, but calling for further study.” 

“There is an increasing body of published laboratory research that finds DNA damage at low intensity exposures — well below levels of thermal heating — which may be comparable to far field exposures from cell antennas. This body of work would apply to all species, including migratory birds, since DNA is DNA, whether single-strand or double helix. The first study to find such effects was conducted by H. Lai and N.P. Singh in 1995 (Lai and Singh 1995). Their work has since been replicated (e.g., Lai and Singh 1996, as well as in hundreds of other more recent published studies), performed in at least 14 laboratories worldwide. The take-home message: low level transmission of EMF from cell towers and other sources probably causes DNA damage. The laboratory research findings strongly infer this relationship. Since DNA is the primary building block and genetic “map” for the very growth, production, replication and survival of all living organisms, deleterious effects can be critical.”

-“A Briefing Memorandum: What We Know, Can Infer, and Don’t Yet Know about Impacts from Thermal and Non-thermal Non-ionizing Radiation to Birds and Other Wildlife” by Albert Manville, July 14, 2016.

As a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist, Dr. Manville presented the current research and proposed recommendations to Congressional staff members in 2007 on the impacts of cell towers, including the radiation, on birds.

Manville was also co-author to a landmark three part 2021 research review on effects to wildlife published in Reviews on Environmental Health which details the impacts to birds and states current science should trigger urgent regulatory action citing more than 1,200 scientific references which found adverse biological effects to wildlife from even very low intensities of non ionizing radiation with findings of  impacts to orientation and migration, reproduction, mating, nest, den building and survivorship. This 150-page report has more than 1,200 references (Levitt et al., 2021a, Levitt et al., 2021b,  Levitt et al., 2021c).  

India dropped their RF limits by 1/10th in 2012 after an Inter-Ministerial Committee set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests reviewed the research on birds, bees, plants and animals and found 593 of the 919 showed impacts as summarized in the journal Biology and Medicine. Recommendations from the Ministry include, “Introduce a law for protection of urban flora and fauna from emerging threats like ERM/EMF as conservation issues in urban areas are different from forested or wildlife habitats.”   

A 2017 report to UNESCO by botanist  Mark Broomhall details the association between increasing amounts of electromagnetic radiation and species disappearance and exodus from the Mt. Nardi area of the Nightcap National Park World Heritage Area during a 15-year period (2000-2015.) The Report concludes, ““With these short explanations of events we can appreciate that the effects of this technology and its application on Mt. Nardi over the last fifteen years, affect not only the top of the life chain species but they are devastating the fabric of the continuity of the World Heritage, causing genetic deterioration in an insidious, massive and ever escalating scale. To truly understand what these studies reveal is to stare into the abyss.” 

A patent was developed to deflect birds with microwaves that “evoke a biologically significant response”. The patent reads, “A hazard warning system radiates pulses of microwave energy in the frequency range of 1 GHz to about 40 GHz to alert and warn target flying birds of the presence of wind turbine electrical generators, power distribution systems, aircraft, and other protected areas from hazardous intrusion…The pulse control circuitry may be caused to generate complex pulse trains that can preferably evoke a biologically significant response within recipient birds.”

Read the patent Method and system for warning birds of hazards.

Other Impacts to Birds From Communications Towers 

On December 2015, the FAA released a revised Advisory Circular on new tower construction includes bird-friendly lighting. The FCC’s Opportunities to Reduce Bird Collisions with Communications Towers While Reducing Tower Lighting Costs provides guidance on applying the new lighting standards.

Tower-related bird fatalities also could be reduced during pre-construction through tower maintenance phases by using the Recommended Best Practices for Communication Tower Design, Siting, Construction, Operation, Maintenance, and Decommissioning.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has measures and guidance for avoiding and minimizing impacts to migratory birds with their Conservation Measures and Guidance Documents webpages.

Letters and Publications by Dr. Albert Manville

News Articles: 


“Faculty Speaker Series – Dr. Albert Manville.” Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, Advanced Academic Programs (24 November 2014). 

“Andrew Goldsworthy, Bees, Birds, the Environment and Electromagnetic Fields.” YouTube (22 June 2016).

Research Studies: 

2021 Review on Wildlife Impacts

Levitt, B. B., Lai, H. C., & Manville, A. M. (2021). Effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields on flora and fauna, Part 3. Exposure standards, public policy, laws, and future directions. Reviews on Environmental Health.  

Levitt, B. B., Lai, H. C., & Manville, A. M. (2022a). Effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields on flora and fauna, part 1. Rising ambient EMF levels in the environment. Reviews on Environmental Health, 37(1), 81–122. 

Levitt, B. B., Lai, H. C., & Manville, A. M. (2022b). Effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields on flora and fauna, Part 2 impacts: How species interact with natural and man-made EMF. Reviews on Environmental Health, 37(3), 327–406.  

Broomhall, Mark. “Report detailing the exodus of species from the Mt. Nardi area of the Nightcap National Park World Heritage Area during a 15-year period (2000-2015.)” United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (2017).

  • “The following report is designed as a simple register of the effects on wildlife in the Nightcap National Park World Heritage area of Mt. Nardi – Mt. Matheson as a result of a significant increase in both output and variety of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) from the Mt. Nardi industrial tower complex.”

Heyers, D., et al. “The magnetic map sense and its use in fine-tuning the migration programme of birds.” Journal of Comparative Physiology A 203.6-7 (2017): 491-497. 

  • The Earth’s magnetic field is one of several natural cues, which migratory birds can use to derive directional (“compass”) information for orientation on their biannual migratory journeys. Moreover, magnetic field effects on prominent aspects of the migratory programme of birds, such as migratory restlessness behaviour, fuel deposition and directional orientation, implicate that geomagnetic information can also be used to derive positional (“map”) information. While the magnetic “compass” in migratory birds is likely to be based on radical pair-forming molecules embedded in their visual system, the sensory correlates underlying a magnetic “map” sense currently remain elusive. Behavioural, physiological and neurobiological findings indicate that the sensor is most likely innervated by the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve and based on magnetic iron particles. Information from this unknown sensor is neither necessary nor sufficient for a functional magnetic compass, but instead could contribute important components of a multifactorial “map” for global positioning. Positional information could allow migratory birds to make vitally important dynamic adaptations of their migratory programme at any relevant point during their journeys.

Laszlo, A.M., et al. “Effects of extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields on turkeys.” Poultry Science pex304 (2017). 

  • “The turkeys in the treatment group were treated in vivo with ELF EMF (50 Hz; 10 μT) for 3 wk after a 1-wk-long adaptation period. The animals were not exposed to ELF EMF during the regeneration period (5 wk following the exposure). 
  • “According to our results, NE-activated β-adrenoceptor function was decreased in the treated birds in a time-dependent manner, while there were no differences between toxicological parameters in the serum, compared to the normal ranges. The decreased NE-dependent β-adrenoceptor function could be compensated by the homeostatic complex during the 5-wk regeneration period.”
  • “Extended experimental periods and more sophisticated analysis methods may help prevent harmful environmental effects on birds; furthermore, these findings could affect public health and the economy.” 

Schwarze, S.,, et al. “Weak Broadband Electromagnetic Fields are More Disruptive to Magnetic Compass Orientation in a Night-Migratory Songbird (Erithacus rubecula) than Strong Narrow-Band Fields.” Front Behav Neurosci. 10.55 (2016).

  • “Magnetic compass orientation in night-migratory songbirds is embedded in the visual system and seems to be based on a light-dependent radical pair mechanism. Recent findings suggest that both broadband electromagnetic fields ranging from ~2 kHz to ~9 MHz and narrow-band fields at the so-called Larmor frequency for a free electron in the Earth’s magnetic field can disrupt this mechanism. However, due to local magnetic fields generated by nuclear spins, effects specific to the Larmor frequency are difficult to understand considering that the primary sensory molecule should be organic and probably a protein. We therefore constructed a purpose-built laboratory and tested the orientation capabilities of European robins in an electromagnetically silent environment, under the specific influence of four different oscillating narrow-band electromagnetic fields, at the Larmor frequency, double the Larmor frequency, 1.315 MHz or 50 Hz, and in the presence of broadband electromagnetic noise covering the range from ~2 kHz to ~9 MHz.” 
  • “Our results indicated that the magnetic compass orientation of European robins could not be disrupted by any of the relatively strong narrow-band electromagnetic fields employed here, but that the weak broadband field very efficiently disrupted their orientation.”

Balmori, Alfonso. “Anthropogenic radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as an emerging threat to wildlife orientation.” Science of The Total Environment 518–519 (2015): 58–60.

  • “Radio frequency fields in the MHz range disrupt birds’ orientation interfering directly with the primary processes of magnetoreception and therefore disable the avian compass as long as they are present.” 

Testimony of Albert M. Manville, II, Ph.D., C.W. B., and Principal, Wildlife and Habitat
Conservation Solutions, LLC, on Behalf of Friends of Amazon Creek, Before the City of
Eugene City Planning Department in Opposition to AT&T/Crossfire’s Application for a
“Stealth” Cellular Communications Tower in the Upper Amazon Creek Corridor. (6 May 2015). 

Wiltschko, Roswitha, et al. “Magnetoreception in birds: the effect of radio-frequency fields.” Journal of The Royal Society Interface 12.103 (2015): 20141103.

  •  In behavioural studies, birds were not able to adjust to radio-frequency fields like they are able to adjust to static fields outside the normal functional range: neither a 2-h pre-exposure in a 7.0 MHz field, 480 nT, nor a 7-h pre-exposure in a 1.315 MHz field, 15 nT, allowed the birds to regain their orientation ability. This inability to adjust to radio-frequency fields suggests that these fields interfere directly with the primary processes of magnetoreception and therefore disable the avian compass as long as they are present. 

Engels, Svenja, et al. “Anthropogenic electromagnetic noise disrupts magnetic compass orientation in a migratory bird.” Nature 509.7500 (2014): 353-356.

  • “Here we show that migratory birds are unable to use their magnetic compass in the presence of urban electromagnetic noise. When European robins, Erithacus rubecula, were exposed to the background electromagnetic noise present in unscreened wooden huts at the University of Oldenburg campus, they could not orient using their magnetic compass. Their magnetic orientation capabilities reappeared in electrically grounded, aluminium-screened huts, which attenuated electromagnetic noise in the frequency range from 50 kHz to 5 MHz by approximately two orders of magnitude. When the grounding was removed or when broadband electromagnetic noise was deliberately generated inside the screened and grounded huts, the birds again lost their magnetic orientation capabilities.”
  • “The disruptive effect of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields is not confined to a narrow frequency band and birds tested far from sources of electromagnetic noise required no screening to orient with their magnetic compass.”

Kavokin, K., et al. “Magnetic orientation of garden warblers (Sylvia borin) under 1.4 MHz radiofrequency magnetic field.” Journal of the Royal Society 11.97 (2014).

  • “Birds in experimental cages, deprived of visual information, showed the seasonally appropriate direction of intended flight with respect to the magnetic meridian. Weak radiofrequency (RF) magnetic field (190 nT at 1.4 MHz) disrupted this orientation ability.”
  • “These results may be considered as an independent replication of earlier experiments, performed by the group of R. and W. Wiltschko with European robins (Erithacus rubecula). Confirmed outstanding sensitivity of the birds’ magnetic compass to RF fields in the lower megahertz range demands for a revision of one of the mainstream theories of magnetoreception, the radical-pair model of birds’ magnetic compass.”
  • “As discussed above, the high sensitivity of the birds’ magnetic compass to RF fields, found in and now confirmed by us, is difficult to explain within the existing radical-pair theory”

Manville, Albert M. “A BRIEFING MEMORANDUM: What We Know, Can Infer, and Don’t Yet Know about Impacts from Thermal and Non-thermal Non-ionizing Radiation to Birds and Other Wildlife.” Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Solutions, 2016.

  • There continues to be an active yet unsettled controversy about current radiation safety standards and their effects on humans and wildlife, most especially (1) with the exponential growth of ultra-high frequency (UHF) microwave radiation of electromagnetic fields (EMF) ranging from 900 MHz to 2500 GHz. The 900 and 1800 MHz fields are commonly used in communication devices such as cellular (cell) telephones, their antennas, related “smart” phones, digital “smart meters,” computer wi-fi communication systems, and other sources of point-to-point and Internet communication. Much less attention is being paid to (2) frequency modulated (FM) impacts on migratory birds, including bandwidths ranging from 70 to 110 MHz also briefly discussed in this memo. 

Cucurachi, C., et al. “A review of the ecological effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF).” Environment International 51 (2013): 116–40.

  • RF-EMF had a significant effect on birds, insects, other vertebrates, other organisms and plants in 70% of the studies.
  • Development and reproduction of birds and insects are the most strongly affected endpoints.

Tsybulin, Olexandr, et al. “GSM 900 MHz cellular phone radiation can either stimulate or depress early embryogenesis in Japanese quails depending on the duration of exposure.” International Journal of Radiation Biology 89.9 (2013): 756-763.

  • “Exposure to radiation from a GSM 900 MHz cellular phone led to a significantly altered number of differentiated somites. In embryos irradiated during 38 h the number of differentiated somites increased (p < 0.001), while in embryos irradiated during 158 h this number decreased (p < 0.05). The lower duration of exposure led to a significant (p < 0.001) decrease in a level of DNA strand breaks in cells of 38-h embryos, while the higher duration of exposure resulted in a significant (p < 0.001) increase in DNA damage as compared to the control.
  • “Conclusion: Effects of GSM 900 MHz cellular phone radiation on early embryogenesis can be either stimulating or deleterious depending on the duration of exposure.”

Wu, Le-Qing, and J. David Dickman. “Neural correlates of a magnetic sense.” science 336.6084 (2012): 1054-1057.

  • “Many animals rely on Earth’s magnetic field for spatial orientation and navigation. However, how the brain receives and interprets magnetic field information is unknown. Support for the existence of magnetic receptors in the vertebrate retina, beak, nose, and inner ear has been proposed, and immediate gene expression markers have identified several brain regions activated by magnetic stimulation, but the central neural mechanisms underlying magnetoreception remain unknown. Here we describe neuronal responses in the pigeon’s brainstem that show how single cells encode magnetic field direction, intensity, and polarity; qualities that are necessary to derive an internal model representing directional heading and geosurface location. Our findings demonstrate that there is a neural substrate for a vertebrate magnetic sense.”

“Report on Possible Impacts of Communication Towers on Wildlife Including Birds and Bees.”  Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India, 2010.

  • This report details the on impacts of communication towers on wildlife including birds and bees submitted to MoEF. It warns of harmful radiation and recommends special laws to protect urban flora & fauna from threats radiation emerging from mobile towers.

Ritz, Thorsten, et al. “Magnetic compass of birds is based on a molecule with optimal directional sensitivity.” Biophysical Journal 96.8 (2009): 3451-3457.

  • “In a multidisciplinary approach subjecting migratory birds to oscillating fields and using their orientation responses as a criterion for unhindered magnetoreception, we identify key features of the underlying receptor molecules. Our observation of resonance effects at specific frequencies, combined with new theoretical considerations and calculations, indicate that birds use a radical pair with special properties that is optimally designed as a receptor in a biological compass. This radical pair design might be realized by cryptochrome photoreceptors if paired with molecular oxygen as a reaction partner.”

Balmori, Alfonso, and Örjan Hallberg. “The urban decline of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus): a possible link with electromagnetic radiation.” Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine 26.2 (2007): 141-151.

  • “The results of this article support the hypothesis that electromagnetic signals are associated with the observed decline in the sparrow population. We conclude that electromagnetic pollution may be responsible, either by itself or in combination with other factors, for the observed decline of the species in European cities during recent years. The appearently strong dependence between bird density and field strength according to this work could be used for a more controlled study to test the hypothesis.”

Everaert, Joris, and Dirk Bauwens. “A possible effect of electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone base stations on the number of breeding house sparrows (Passer domesticus).” Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine 26.1 (2007): 63-72.

  • “Spatial variation in the number of House Sparrow males was negatively and highly significantly related to the strength of electric fields from both the 900 and 1800 MHz downlink frequency bands and from the sum of these bands (Chi2-tests and AIC-criteria, P < 0.001). This negative relationship was highly similar within each of the six study areas, despite differences among areas in both the number of birds and radiation levels. Thus, our data show that fewer House Sparrow males were seen at locations with relatively high electric field strength values of GSM base stations and therefore support the notion that long-term exposure to higher levels of radiation negatively affects the abundance or behavior of House Sparrows in the wild.”

Manville, Albert M. “U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Concerns Over Potential Radiation Impacts of Cellular Communication Towers on Migratory Birds and Other Wildlife – Research Opportunities.” Congressional Staff Briefing on the Environmental and Human Health Effects of Radiofrequency (RF) Radiation, Washington DC, 10 May 2007. 

Rejt, L., et al. “Influence of radar radiation on breeding biology of tits (Parus sp.).” Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine 26.3 (2007): 235-238.

  • “Results of the present study show that radar radiation generally does not lead to decrease of number of nesting tits, but may cause shifts in tits species living around the radar station. (But is the microhabitat, apart from the radiation level, around each nest box more likely to attract one species of tit or another?).”

Wiltschko, Wolfgang, et al. “Magnetite-based magnetoreception: the effect of repeated pulsing on the orientation of migratory birds.” Journal of Comparative Physiology A 193.5 (2007): 515-522.

  • Previous studies have shown that a magnetic pulse affected the orientation of passerine migrants for a short period only: for about 3 days, the birds’ headings were deflected eastward from their migratory direction, followed by a phase of disorientation, with the birds returning to their normal migratory direction after about 10 days. 
  • To analyze the processes involved in the fading of the pulse effect, migratory birds were subjected to a second, identical pulse 16 days after the first pulse, when the effect of that pulse had disappeared. This second pulse affected the birds’ behavior in a different way: it caused an increase in the scatter of the birds’ headings for 2 days, after which the birds showed normal migratory orientation again. 
  • These observations are at variance with the hypothesis that the magnetite-based receptor had been fully restored, but also with the hypothesis that the input of this receptor was ignored. They rather indicate dynamic processes, which include changes in the affected receptor, but at the same time cause the birds to weigh and rate the altered input differently. The bearing of these findings on the question of whether single domains or superparamagnetic particles are involved in the magnetite-based receptors is discussed.

Muheim, Rachel, Frank R. Moore, and John B. Phillips. “Calibration of magnetic and celestial compass cues in migratory birds-a review of cue-conflict experiments.” Journal of Experimental Biology 209.1 (2006): 2-17.

  • “Migratory birds use multiple sources of compass information for orientation, including the geomagnetic field, the sun, skylight polarization patterns and star patterns. In this paper we review the results of cue-conflict experiments designed to determine the relative importance of the different compass mechanisms, and how directional information from these compass mechanisms is integrated.”

Rochalska, M. “The effect of electromagnetic fields on living organisms: plants, birds and animals.” Medycyna Pracy 58.1 (2006): 37-48.

  • “Electromagnetic fields, constant and alternating, are a static element of the environment. They originate from both natural and man-made sources. Depending on the type of the field, its intensity and time of activity, they exert different effects on the natural world (plants and animals). Some animals utilize magnetic field of the earth for their own purposes.”

Shafey, T. M., S. Al-Mufarej, and H. A. Al-Batshan. “Effect of electric field during incubation of eggs on the immune responses of hatched chickens.” Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine 25.3 (2006): 163-175.

  • “It is concluded that the incubation of eggs under EF of 30 kV/m, 60 Hz increased spleen weight as a % BW, without altering cell-mediated and humoral immune responses and, consequently, immunocompetence of meat chickens during the rearing period of 42 days.”

Wiltschko, Roswitha, and Wolfgang Wiltschko. “Magnetoreception.” Bioessays 28.2 (2006): 157-168.

  • “The vector of the geomagnetic field provides animals with directional information, while intensity and/or inclination provide them with positional information. For magnetoreception, two hypotheses are currently discussed: one proposing magnetite-based mechanisms, the other suggesting radical pair processes involving photopigments. Behavioral studies indicate that birds use both mechanisms: they responded to a short, strong magnetic pulse designed to change the magnetization of magnetite particles, while, at the same time, their orientation was found to be light-dependent and could be disrupted by high-frequency magnetic fields in the MHz range, which is diagnostic for radical pair processes. Details of these findings, together with electrophysiological and histological studies, suggest that, in birds, a radical pair mechanism located in the right eye provides directional information for a compass, while a magnetite-based mechanism located in the upper beak records magnetic intensity, thus providing positional information.”

Balmori A. “Possible Effects of Electromagnetic Fields from Phone Masts on a Population of White Stork (Ciconia ciconia).” Electromagn Biol Med. 24.2 (2005): 109-19.

  • “Interesting behavioral observations of the white stork nesting sites located within 100m of one or several cell site antennas were carried out. These results are compatible with the possibility that microwaves are interfering with the reproduction of white storks and would corroborate the results of laboratory research by other authors In far away areas, where the radiation decreases progressively, the chronic exposure can also have long term effects. Effects from antennas on the habitat of birds are difficult to quantify, but they can cause a serious deterioration, generating silent areas without male singers or reproductive couples.”

Fernie, Kim J., and S. James Reynolds. “The effects of electromagnetic fields from power lines on avian reproductive biology and physiology: a review.” Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B 8.2 (2005): 127-140.

  • “This review focuses on research examining the effects of EMFs on birds; most studies indicate that EMF exposure of birds generally changes, but not always consistently in effect or in direction, their behavior, reproductive success, growth and development, physiology and endocrinology, and oxidative stress under EMF conditions. Some of this work has involved birds under aviary conditions, while other research has focused on free-ranging birds exposed to EMFs. Finally, a number of future research directions are discussed that may help to provide a better understanding of EMF effects on vertebrate health and conservation.”

Johnsen, Sönke, and Kenneth J. Lohmann. “The physics and neurobiology of magnetoreception.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 6.9 (2005): 703-712.

  • “Diverse animals can detect magnetic fields but little is known about how they do so. Three main hypotheses of magnetic field perception have been proposed. Electrosensitive marine fish might detect the Earth’s field through electromagnetic induction, but direct evidence that induction underlies magnetoreception in such fish has not been obtained. Studies in other animals have provided evidence that is consistent with two other mechanisms: biogenic magnetite and chemical reactions that are modulated by weak magnetic fields. Despite recent advances, however, magnetoreceptors have not been identified with certainty in any animal, and the mode of transduction for the magnetic sense remains unknown.”

Manville, A.M., II. 2005. “Bird strikes and electrocutions at power lines, communication towers, and wind turbines: state of the art and state of the science – next steps toward mitigation.” Bird Conservation Implementation in the Americas: Proceedings 3rd International Partners in Flight Conference 2002, C.J. Ralph and T. D. Rich, Editors. U.S.D.A. Forest Service General Technical Report PSW-GTR-191, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Albany, CA: 1051-1064 

  • Collisions with power transmission and distribution lines may kill anywhere from hundreds of thousands to 175 million birds annually, and power lines electrocute tens to hundreds of thousands more birds annually, but these utilities are poorly monitored for both strikes and electrocutions. More than 15,000 wind turbines may kill 40,000 or more birds annually nationwide, the majority in California. 
  • This paper will address the commonalities of bird impacts among these industries; those bird species that tend to be most affected; and research (completed, current, and proposed) intended to reduce bird collisions and electrocutions nationwide. The issues of structure location (siting), lighting, guy supports, lattice or tubular structures, bird behavior, and habitat modifications are reviewed. In addition, this paper reviews the respective roles and publications of the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee and the Wildlife Workgroup of the National Wind Coordinating Committee, the roles of the Service-chaired Communication Tower Working Group and Wind Turbine Siting Working Group, and the Fish and Wildlife Services= voluntary communication tower, and turbine siting and placement guidelines. An update on recent Communication Tower Working Group research initiatives will also be discussed along with promising research findings and needs. 

Mouritsen, Henrik, and Thorsten Ritz. “Magnetoreception and its use in bird navigation.” Current Opinion in Neurobiology 15.4 (2005): 406-414.

  • “Recent advances have brought new insight into the physiological mechanisms that enable birds and other animals to use magnetic fields for orientation. Many birds seem to have two magnetodetection senses, one based on magnetite near the beak and one based on light-dependent radical-pair processes in the bird’s eye(s). Among the most exciting recent results are: first, behavioural responses of birds experiencing oscillating magnetic fields. Second, the occurrence of putative magnetosensory molecules, the cryptochromes, in the eyes of migratory birds. Third, detection of a brain area that integrates specialised visual input at night in night-migratory songbirds. Fourth, a putative magnetosensory cluster of magnetite in the upper beak. These and other recent findings have important implications for magnetoreception; however, many crucial open questions remain.”

Thalau, Peter, et al. “Magnetic compass orientation of migratory birds in the presence of a 1.315 MHz oscillating field.” Naturwissenschaften 92.2 (2005): 86-90.

  • “The birds’ responses depended on the alignment of the oscillating field with respect to the static geomagnetic field: when the 1.315 MHz field was aligned parallel with the field lines, birds significantly preferred northerly directions in spring and southerly directions in autumn. These preferences reflect normal migratory orientation, with the variance slightly increased compared to control tests in the geomagnetic field alone or to tests in a 7.0 MHz field. However, in the 1.315 MHz field aligned at a 24° angle to the field lines, the birds were disoriented in both seasons, indicating that the high frequency field interfered with magnetoreception.”
  • “These finding are in agreement with theoretical predictions and support the assumption of a radical-pair mechanism underlying the processes mediating magnetic compass information in birds.”

Wiltschko, Wolfgang, and Roswitha Wiltschko. “Magnetic orientation and magnetoreception in birds and other animals.” Journal of Comparative Physiology A 191.8 (2005): 675-693.

  • “A magnetic compass is widespread among animals, magnetic navigation is indicated e.g. in birds, marine turtles and spiny lobsters and the use of magnetic ‘sign posts’ has been described for birds and marine turtles. For magnetoreception, two hypotheses are currently discussed, one proposing a chemical compass based on a radical pair mechanism, the other postulating processes involving magnetite particles. The available evidence suggests that birds use both mechanisms, with the radical pair mechanism in the right eye providing directional information and a magnetite-based mechanism in the upper beak providing information on position as component of the ‘map’. Behavioral data from other animals indicate a light-dependent compass probably based on a radical pair mechanism in amphibians and a possibly magnetite-based mechanism in mammals. Histological and electrophysiological data suggest a magnetite-based mechanism in the nasal cavities of salmonid fish. Little is known about the parts of the brain where the respective information is processed.”

Ritz, Thorsten, et al. “Resonance effects indicate a radical-pair mechanism for avian magnetic compass.” Nature 429.6988 (2004): 177-180.

  • “Here we show that oscillating magnetic fields disrupt the magnetic orientation behaviour of migratory birds. Robins were disoriented when exposed to a vertically aligned broadband (0.1–10 MHz) or a single-frequency (7-MHz) field in addition to the geomagnetic field. Moreover, in the 7-MHz oscillating field, this effect depended on the angle between the oscillating and the geomagnetic fields. The birds exhibited seasonally appropriate migratory orientation when the oscillating field was parallel to the geomagnetic field, but were disoriented when it was presented at a 24° or 48° angle. These results are consistent with a resonance effect on singlet–triplet transitions and suggest a magnetic compass based on a radical-pair mechanism.”

Beason, Robert C., and Peter Semm. “Responses of neurons to an amplitude modulated microwave stimulus.” Neuroscience Letters 333.3 (2002): 175-178.

  • “In this study we investigated the effects of a pulsed radio frequency signal similar to the signal produced by global system for mobile communication telephones (900 MHz carrier, modulated at 217 Hz) on neurons of the avian brain. We found that such stimulation resulted in changes in the amount of neural activity by more than half of the brain cells. Most (76%) of the responding cells increased their rates of firing by an average 3.5-fold. The other responding cells exhibited a decrease in their rates of spontaneous activity Such responses indicate potential effects on humans using hand-held cellular phones.”

Grigor’ev, IuG. “Biological effects of mobile phone electromagnetic field on chick embryo (risk assessment using the mortality rate).” Radiatsionnaia Biologiia, Radioecologiia 43.5 (2002): 541-543.

  • “Chicken embryos were exposed to EMF from GSM mobile phone during the embryonic development (21 days). As a result the embryo mortality rate in the incubation period increased to 75% (versus 16% in control group).”

Fernie, Kimberly J., and David M. Bird. “Evidence of oxidative stress in American kestrels exposed to electromagnetic fields.” Environmental Research 86.2 (2001): 198-207.

  • “Short-term EMF exposure (one breeding season) suppressed plasma total proteins, hematocrits, and carotenoids in the first half of the breeding season. It also suppressed erythrocyte cells and lymphocyte proportions, but elevated granulosa proportions at the end of the breeding season. Long-term EMF exposure (two breeding seasons) suppressed hematocrits in the first half of the reproductive period too.” 
  • “Results indicate that only short-term EMF birds experience an immune response, particularly during the early half of the breeding season. The elevation of granulocytes, and the suppression of carotenoids, total proteins, and previously melatonin in the same kestrels, signifies that the short-term EMF male kestrels had higher levels of oxidative stress, due to an immune response and/or EMF exposure. Long-term EMF exposure may be linked to higher levels of oxidative stress through EMF exposure only.”

Fernie, Kimberly J., and David M. Bird. “Effects of electromagnetic fields on the growth of nestling American Kestrels.” The Condor 102.2 (2000): 461-465.

  • “We studied nestling American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) in a laboratory setting to determine whether exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) affected their growth.”
  • “EMF exposure affected the growth of female and male nestlings. EMF nestlings and fledglings were heavier and had longer tarsi. The periods of maximal weight gain and antebrachial growth were delayed in EMF males compared to controls, although EMF males were heavier and had similarly long antebrachia to controls by 21 days of age. Growth of ninth primaries and central rectrices of nestlings were unaffected by EMF exposure.”

Fernie, Kimberly J., Nancy J. Leonard, and David M. Bird. “Behavior of free-ranging and captive American kestrels under electromagnetic fields.” Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Part A 59.8 (2000): 597-603.

  • “Wild birds, particularly raptors, commonly use electrical transmission structures for nesting, perching, hunting, and roosting. Consequently, birds are exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). The amount of time that wild reproducing American kestrels (Falco sparverius) were exposed to EMFs was determined, and the effects of EMFs on the behavior of captive reproducing kestrels were examined.”
  • “Captive EMF females were more active, more alert, and perched on the pen roof more frequently than control females during courtship. EMF females preened and rested less often during brood rearing. EMF male kestrels were more active than control males during courtship, and more alert during incubation.”
  • “Increased activity of kestrels during courtship may be linked to changes in corticosterone, but likely not melatonin. Observed behavioral changes were unlikely to directly result in the better growth of nestlings and fledging success, or poorer hatching success, of the EMF group, as previously reported. Behavioral changes of captive EMF kestrels may be observed in wild kestrels.”

Fernie, Kimberly Jan, David Michael Bird, and Denis Petitclerc. “Effects of electromagnetic fields on photophasic circulating melatonin levels in American kestrels.” Environmental Health Perspectives 107.11 (1999): 901.

  • EMF exposure had an overall effect on plasma melatonin in male kestrels, with plasma levels suppressed at 42 days and elevated at 70 days of EMF exposure. The similarity in melatonin levels between EMF males at 42 days and controls at 70 days suggests a seasonal phase-shift of the melatonin profile caused by EMF exposure. Melatonin was also suppressed in long-term fledglings, but not in short-term fledglings or adult females. Melatonin levels in adult males were higher than in adult females, possibly explaining the sexually dimorphic response to EMFs. Melatonin and body mass were not associated in American kestrels.
  •  It is likely that the results are relevant to wild raptors nesting within EMFs.

Farrell, J. M., et al. “The effect of pulsed and sinusoidal magnetic fields on the morphology of developing chick embryos.” Bioelectromagnetics 18.6 (1997): 431-438.

  • “When the results of the campaigns were analyzed separately, a range of responses was observed. Four campaigns (three PMF campaigns and one 60 Hz campaign) exhibited statistically significant increases (P ≥ 0.01), ranging from 2-fold to 7-fold, in the abnormality rate in MF-exposed embryos. In the remaining PMF campaign, there was only a slight (roughly 50%), statistically insignificant (P = 0.2) increase in the abnormality rate due to MF exposure. When the morphological abnormality rate of all of the PMF-exposed embryos was compared to that of all of the corresponding control embryos, a statistically significant (P ≥ .001) result was obtained, indicating that PMF exposure approximately doubled the abnormality rate. Likewise, when the abnormality rate of the sinusoid-exposed embryos was compared to the corresponding control embryos, the abnormality rate was increased (approximately tripled).”
  • “This robust result indicates that weak EMFs can induce morphological abnormalities in developing chick embryos. We have attempted to analyze some of the confounding factors that may have contributed to the lack of response in one of the campaigns. The genetic composition of the breeding stock was altered by the breeder before the start of the nonresponding campaign. We hypothesize that the genetic composition of the breeding stock determines the susceptibility of any given flock to EMF-induced abnormalities and therefore could represent a confounding factor in studies of EMF-induced bioeffects in chick embryos.” 

Kirschvink. “Microwave absorption by magnetite: a possible mechanism for coupling nonthermal levels of radiation to biological systems.” Bioelectromagnetics 17 (1996): 187-194. 

  • “The presence of trace amounts of biogenic magnetite (Fe3O4) in animal and human tissues and the observation that ferromagnetic particles are ubiquitous in laboratory materials (including tissue culture media) provide a physical mechanism through which microwave radiation might produce or appear to produce biological effects. Magnetite is an excellent absorber of microwave radiation at frequencies between 0.5 and 10.0 GHz through the process of ferromagnetic resonance, where the magnetic vector of the incident field causes precession of Bohr magnetons around the internal demagnetizing field of the crystal. Energy absorbed by this process is first transduced into acoustic vibrations at the microwave carrier frequency within the crystal lattice via the magnetoacoustic effect; then, the energy should be dissipated in cellular structures in close proximity to the magnetite crystals. Several possible methods for testing this hypothesis experimentally are discussed. Studies of microwave dosimetry at the cellular level should consider effects of biogenic magnetite.”

Wasserman, F. E., et al. “The effects of microwave radiation on avian dominance behavior.” Bioelectromagnetics 5.3 (1984): 331-339.

  • “Seventeen birds from 12 flocks were exposed to microwave radiation under various combinations of power density and duration; three birds from two additional flocks served as sham-exposed controls. Experiments were conducted outdoors at Manomet, Massachusetts (41°56′N, 70°35′W) under normal winter ambient temperatures. Although irradiated birds maintained their positions within a flock hierarchy with one exception, some appeared to have a change in their level of aggression after exposure.”

Bigu-del-Blanco, J., and C. Romero-Sierra. “The properties of bird feathers as converse piezoelectric transducers and as receptors of microwave radiation. I. Bird feathers as converse piezoelectric transducers.” Biotelemetry 2.6 (1975): 341.

  • “An investigation was made of the properties of bird feathers as piezoelectric transducers in the audiofrequency range and as dielectric receptors of electromagnetic radiation in the microwave region. In the first case, cartridges of the ceramic and magnetic type and an electromagnetic transducer probe were used as detecting devices. Results show piezoelectric resonances in the 1 to 20-kHz region for the calami of feathers.”

Bigu-del-Blanco, J., and C. Romero-Sierra. “The properties of bird feathers as converse piezoelectric transducers and as receptors of microwave radiation. II. Bird feathers as dielectric receptors of microwave radiation.” Biotelemetry 2.6 (1974): 354-364.

  • “The characteristics of bird feathers as receptors of microwave fields were investigated in the 10- to 16-GHz region. Experiments were conducted coupling the specimen (feather) to a length of waveguide which served, together with other microwave components, as a primary detector. Microwave power radiation patterns were measured both in the presence and in the absence of the specimen. Results indicated a substantial increase in the microwave power collected in the forward direction and a decrease of the radiation pattern beam width when the feather was present. Fruthermore, some experiemental evidence indicated the possibility of inducing piezoelectric effects in the specimen by audiofrequency pulse-modulated microwave fields. These results are important in view of (i) the fundamental role that feathers play in the life of birds and (ii) the influence of environmental factors on bird behaviour.”