A study has found that fireworks cause wild geese to make changes to their behaviour, such as increasing their flight and changing roost sites, which have a negative long-term effect on them.

The study, titled “Wild goose chase: Geese flee high and far, and with aftereffects from New Year’s fireworks” published in the Society of Conservation Biology in November 2022, looked at what happens to wild migratory geese in the short- and long-term after New Year’s Eve fireworks displays disturb their roosts. Researchers used GPS tracking data to compare night movement and foraging behaviour in 347 individuals of four different wild goose species (white-fronted geese Anser albifrons, bean geese Anser fabalis, barnacle geese Branta leucopsis, and pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus), in the 12 days before and after New Year’s Eve in Western Europe. 

The results show that fireworks have long-lasting effects on geese. They showed increased foraging behaviour and changing roost sites, flying higher and further in response to the fireworks, and switching roosting sites more frequently, which is a problem because this uses up more energy and the geese must then find extra food to compensate — which may create stress and can lead to conflicts with farmers when geese forage on their land. The authors estimated that geese spent up to 10% in additional energy because of the fireworks’ effects.

The researchers, who are all from Germany and the Netherlands, wrote, “In conclusion, on top of the already demonstrated negative immediate impacts of fireworks on wild animals, pets, humans, and the environment (Shamoun-Baranes et al., 2011; Kukulski et al., 2018; Gähwiler et al., 2020), we show that NY fireworks also have aftereffects, lasting longer than the fireworks themselves, on wild geese. According to the EU Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC, 2009), member states shall take steps to avoid deliberate disturbance of birds in protected areas.”

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Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.