Fire and Birds

Ecologists have made some fascinating discoveries about the relationships between wildfire and birds.

December 7, 2021

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Fire and Birds


Ecologists and ornithologists have been studying the effects of wildfire on bird populations all over the world. Their research has resulted in many fascinating discoveries about the relationships between fire and birds.

Wildfires have been in the news a lot in recent years. In the western US where I live, enormous fires have been sweeping across California, Oregon, Idaho, and other states with increasing frequency and severity.

And who can forget the 2019-2020 bushfire season in Australia, which came to be known as the “Black Summer?” Then there were the thousands of fires that broke out in the rainforests and wetlands of Brazil in 2020.

This is all pretty bad news, no doubt. It can be gut-wrenching to watch beautiful wilderness go up in flames, not to mention towns and people’s homes.

But if we temporarily set aside our emotions, we can take a more scientific, objective viewpoint to ask the question:

Are wildfires harmful to birds and other wildlife, in general?

It turns out there’s no simple “yes or no” answer to that question.

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Links of Interest

Research Citations

Photos of Some Species Mentioned

Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis). Photo by photocech/Adobe.
Black-backed Woodpecker male (Picoides arcticus). Photo by Kuryaba/Flickr.
Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Dryobates borealis). Photo by USFWS.
Kirtland's Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii). Photo by Agami/Adobe.
Bushfire in Kakadu National Park, Australia. 'Firehawk' raptors foraging for prey at the burn. Photo by Martin/Adobe.
Brown Falcon (Falco berigora). Photo by Andrew/Adobe.


  • Black-backed Woodpecker sounds (Xeno Canto recording XC482561)
  • Black-backed Woodpecker sounds (Xeno Canto recording XC526701)
  • Kirtland's Warbler sounds (Xeno Canto recording XC322494)

This work by Ivan Phillipsen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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