Toolkit for Bird Enthusiasts

Bird enthusiasts can play an active role in reducing communications tower collisions by urging tower owners and operators to replace steady-burning lights with flashing ones. This simple improvement will make communication towers more bird-friendly while reducing operating costs. It is worth the effort: Every tower made safer now will benefit birds for years to come. (Photo: Anne Worner/Flickr)

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Which Towers Are Most Dangerous?

Not all communications towers pose equal threats to birds, and basic changes to the most dangerous towers can greatly reduce tower collisions and bird deaths. Those most in need of improvements include:

  • Towers with steady-burning nighttime lights: these lights attract and disorient birds, leading to collisions and bird fatalities. Red lights in particular are dangerous for birds.
  • Towers 300 feet and taller cause significantly more avian fatalities than shorter ones. Likewise, towers supported by guy wires are responsible for more collisions than self-supporting ones.
  • Towers located in areas with high migratory bird concentrations. This is particularly important in areas used by rare birds.
  • Towers located in areas with frequent fog in the spring and fall; foggy conditions tend to increase bird collisions.

Are Flashing Lights a Threat to Pilots?

The FAA has found that flashing lights on communication towers do not pose a safety danger for aviators. Accordingly, the agency released an Advisory Circular requiring that new towers greater than 150 feet tall be lit with flashing lights. Unfortunately, existing towers are still allowed to use nonflashing lights.


Working with the Tower Industry

Everyone has something to gain by replacing steady-burning lights with flashing ones. And the tower industry has generally been supportive of this option, recognizing that flashing lights reduce operating and maintenance costs. The win-win aspect of this opportunity is an important point to emphasize when interacting with the communication tower officials.

tower collisions affect birds throughout North America


How Do I Find Information About A Specific Tower?

Search the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Registration Website
Communication towers are registered and licensed by the FCC. By using the FCC's Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) website, bird supporters can search for communication tower information by state, county, and FCC registration number, among other things. They can also ascertain tower height, owner and engineer contact information, and tower affiliation, such as radio, television, etc.

Find the Tower Number
Each tower has a unique Federal Communications Commission (FCC) identification file number. This number is typically posted on entrance gates, fences, or other nearby structures. Please honor private property rights when searching for the tower's file number.


Making Contact with Tower Engineers and Owners

The tower engineer may be the best person to contact, as he or she will be most familiar with the individual tower and responsible for its marking and lighting. Phone contact can be effective, but a face-to-face meeting is typically better.

Another option is to write a letter notifying the tower engineer of the issue and opportunities. Always remember to be respectful and positive in your interactions. See a sample letter. (Photo: Terry Ross/Flickr)

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Given busy schedules, it may be useful to make frequent contact with industry representatives after your initial meeting. This is especially important if progress is not obvious. During interactions, it is also important to mention that bird-friendly changes provide an opportunity to generate positive media attention for tower operators and affiliate stations.


More About Birds and Towers

Check out our online resources to learn more about how you can create a safer environment for birds by reducing communication tower collisions and fatalities.