ENGLISH BIRDS MISTAKE RUBBER BANDS FOR WORMS, COVER ISLAND IN RUBBER LITTER
Well, so much for the old saying, “this is for the birds.” Because this is both for the birds and by the birds. But it’s also a small piece of the modern tragedy that is plastic and rubber getting absolutely everywhere. Even a remote, uninhabited island like Mullion Island, which is located near the UK’s southwest coast. So what happened here? Well, British conservationists had quite the puzzle when they discovered that Mullion Island is absolutely full of rubber bands. So they obviously had to figure out why. And the answer? Birds kept making the mistake that rubber bands were worms and are dumping on the island.
TINY AND PROTECTED MULLION ISLAND FILLED WITH BIRDS AND RUBBER BANDS
So to be fair, saying the island is full of rubber bands isn’t too shocking. Mullion island is only about 850 feet across. But it’s a dedicated bird sanctuary. So the only people who are able to go there are conservationists and researchers. Well, except for the few who are able to finagle a special visitor’s permit. But when Rangers working with the UK National Trust learned that the small island’s shoreline was full of rubber bands, they wanted to quickly understand how it was happening. So you’ve all seen ornithologists, right? They are pretty damn serious about birds, and protecting them.
BIRD CONSERVATIONISTS SOLVED MYSTERY, HAVE TO WAIT TO DO CLEAN UP
Mark Grantham is a researcher at the West Cornwall Ringing Group. It works to track birds’ movements. He said, “We first noticed the bands on a monitoring visit during the breeding season and were puzzled why there were so many and how they’d got there.” I bet! But they had to wait to do a real clean of the site. Why? Because the birds were roosting there until the middle of the fall season. In just an hour, they collected thousands of rubber bands as well as a fair amount of waste from fishermen.
So which birds were mistaking rubber bands for worms and dumping them on the island? Great black-backed and herring sea gulls, who regularly roost on the island. But these rubber bands can be a hazard, especially when they become stuck in birds’ guts. Birds and many animals are at risk from consuming plastics of all sorts.