Peregrine falcons and fireworks: 'That's a really bad idea'

On Canada Day, crowds will flock to see the fireworks show above the Petitcodiac River in Moncton. But some are raising concerns over how they will impact birds in the area.

Dalhousie researcher says concerns about the noise and light from fireworks harming birds are valid

There are concerns that launching fireworks above the Petitcodiac River on Canada Day, while birds are nesting, could cause them harm and even death. (Tourism NB)

On Canada Day, crowds will flock to see the fireworks show above the Petitcodiac River in Moncton.

But some are raising concerns over how they will impact birds in the area. 

While resident Maurice Richard loves fireworks as much as the next person, he is worried about the loud noise and lights harming nesting birds, particularly the peregrine falcons on top of nearby Assomption Place downtown.

"Just curious to know why over the past few years it is OK to threaten the peregrine falcons,' he wrote in an e-mail to CBC. "Why can't the tri-city fireworks move the location to not threaten these birds?"

A pair of peregrine falcons have been nesting on top of Assomption Place in downtown Moncton for several years. Researchers worry they could be harmed by the loud noise and lights of Canada Day fireworks. (Alain Clavette)

Andrew Horn, a researcher in the department of biology at Dalhousie University, studies the effects of noise on nesting birds.

He said fireworks over a bird-rich area such as the Petitcodiac River and surrounding marsh is definitely, "a really bad idea."

"To have, all of the sudden, these fireworks overhead with all the light and all the sound — it would make them crazy," Horn said.

Fireworks pose risks to birds

Sudden loud noises can flush birds out of their nests and get them to suddenly fly out of cover, "when they really shouldn't be flying out of cover," Horn said. 

If it's repeated or ongoing, it can get them to avoid particular areas, too, he said. 

Moncton birder Alain Clavette said the pair of falcons nesting on Assomption Place have at least three chicks this year, with one taking its first flight on Thursday. 

Clavette shares the concerns about the upcoming fireworks, and Horn and he agree that many bird species, not just the peregrine falcons, will likely be negatively affected by the fireworks show.

"If they suddenly are forced to burst out of an area they actually fly into stuff and they fly into each other, so it can cause mortality," Horn said.

Peregrine falcons have been nesting for several years on top of Moncton's tallest office building, Assomption Place, seen here on the right. It is very near the site of the Canada Day fireworks display over the Petitcodiac River. (downtownmoncton.com)

With so many birds nesting right now, Horn said it only adds to the risk of launching fireworks over the river.

"Ducks would be flushed up — it would be like gun fire for them — and many of them would be with their broods and they might get separated," he said.

"Black birds would leap off their nests and... if they've got eggs they can knock those eggs into the water or crack them." 

Alain Clavette has spotted many nesting birds, including this Nelson's sparrow, along the Petitcodiac River in downtown Moncton. He worries many birds could be harmed by launching the Canada Day fireworks above the River. (Alain Clavette)

Asked to respond to the concerns, in an e-mailed statement, Isabelle LeBlanc from the City of Moncton said the fireworks are for residents of Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe.

"We share the responsibility of coordinating them and the fireworks need to be viewed from all three communities. We have looked at other options for the fireworks and are always looking at possibilities."

Meghan Cross, a spokesperson for for the Town of Riverview, said that the issue was discussed by the planning committee, who worked with the fireworks provider to look at other options for a site that would be appropriate for residents of Moncton, Riverview, and Dieppe to see the fireworks. 

But so far, no alternative has been chosen, she said. 

with files from Information Morning Moncton