Estimation of bird-vehicle collision mortality on U.S. roads

May 28, 2014 by Pete Marra

Roads have numerous direct and indirect ecological impacts on wildlife. Vehicle collisions are a top impact of roads on birds, with tens of millions of birds thought to be killed each year in the United States. However, currently available mortality estimates are extrapolated from a single study.

We reviewed the literature and used 20 mortality rates extracted from 13 studies to systematically quantify data-driven estimates of annual U.S. mortality from bird-vehicle collisions. We generated 4 separate estimates along with uncertainty using different subsets of data deemed to be rigorous enough to contribute relatively little bias to estimates. All of our estimates of vehicle mortality are higher than previous U.S. figures.

When averaging across model iterations, we estimated that between 89 and 340 million birds die annually from vehicle collisions on U.S. roads. Sensitivity analyses indicated that uncertainty about survey-related biases (scavenger removal and searcher detection of carcasses) contributes the greatest amount of uncertainty to our mortality estimates. Future studies should account for these biases to provide more accurate local estimates of mortality rates and to inform more precise national mortality estimates.

We found relatively little information available to quantify regional, seasonal, and taxonomic patterns of vehicle collision risk, and substantial uncertainty remains about whether collisions contribute to large-scale impacts on bird populations. Nonetheless, the large magnitude of bird mortality caused by vehicle collisions combined with evidence that collisions can contribute to local population declines for some species highlights the need for implementation of conservation and management actions to reduce this mortality.

This article summarizes the information in this scientific paper:

Loss, S. R., Will, T. and Marra, P. P. (2014), Estimation of bird-vehicle collision mortality on U.S. roads. The Journal of Wildlife Management. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.721

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