Where do all the Urban Birds Die?

May be I couldn’t explain the matter in the right way. There will be plenty of sightings in the Larger cities in the map and why not? During the migration and return migration period, all birds fly over the large cities to the nearby wetland or Forest (NP or Reserve Forest or WLS or Wetland). But they don’t stay here for hunting or don’t even halt here, they do not come even in a lower altitude, they fly to their destination as a passerby may halt in a wetland for one day and go the final destination for stayal watching all the pros and cons there. We see them flying high on their way to their destination. Rhinos, Elephants, Tigers, Deers and all are regularly sighted in the National Highway during the flood time of Assam. They cross the highway and go up to a hill opposite to the Forest. The sightings doesn’t mean they stay and hunt in the National Highway of a city. All the species usually hunt in their place of Stayal. In short, I may certainly observe Raptors/ group of wild ducks flying high from my roof, but a Mallard will come down and hunt a prey from a urban local pond or a Raptor will come down and kill a Pigeon in a busy residential area is most unlikely. Sighting in the map is not so important in this respect, important is where their habitats are. Am I clear now? No?

Why a baby swings his/her arms, runs unnecessarily? wasting their energy? Had she ate the rat and dove she killed? But in my locality the street dogs may be better called domesticated (not feral), as they are fed regularly by local people. The chasing and hunting occasionally is utilisation of their energy. I saw them killing rats but they didn’t eat those. May be they behave differently in different areas.

Bodies, not bones. The soft tissue can decompose quickly. Even in dry temperate climates I’ve see birds that died in the afternoon turn into a loose pile of feathers and bones by the next day, and by the second day are so completely disarticulated that only a few of the larger bones remain.

In the wild bones may last for a while, I’m sure pretty much everyone on iNat has come across bird bones or even partially articulated bird skeletons, but most often, especially for smaller birds, the bodies are disarticulated in short order and the bones scattered.

In addition, if there are rodents around bones are often scavenged by them quickly both for the calcium and as something to gnaw on for their teeth. It’s common to find rats, mice, and squirrels chewing on bones both in the wild and in urban environments.

All this can quickly render a dead bird unrecognizable to the majority of people.


I suppose my main question with the articles was with the lack of clarity/bridging the gap of wholesale disappearance vs disappearance in a recognizable form then, but I still feel like there was an implication of wholesale decay, at least with the one article.

I see where I might of misinterpreted them referring to only the flesh, not the entire bird. The other link talked about how “a small bird decomposes into an unrecognizable blob in about a day and will disappear in three”, so if “a small bird” refers only to the soft tissue body of the bird it makes sense. But since it was referred to as “a bird”, not “a bird’s body”, it read to me as inclusive of the entire bird.
More on why that train of thought still feels a little confusing later though.
But the “because bird decompose so rapidly, the fossil record of birds is poor compared to other groups of vertebrates” bit seemed to directly refer to bones, not bodies, and seems to tie in to the earlier quote about how they decompose fairly quickly. Which means there might of been an implication the whole bird does disappear rather quickly and I didn’t completely misinterpret it, at least for that specific article.
And although I’m not saying that statement itself is untrue, the idea that it happens on a time scale fast enough to contribute to not seeing traces of recently dead birds is where my concern is. It’s still more than possible I misread that statement’s intention, but if so I’m genuinely not sure how to interpret it in the context of the article.

And if it is the case that the decaying was referring strictly to bodies and not bones, there’s still a gap left that I don’t think is the articles themselves bridged very clearly.
There was a sort of strange sequence of delicate flesh, hollow bones, etc → fragile → disappears, but if the disappearing excludes the skeletal remains (save for instances of body disposal or scavenger consumption), then it isn’t really “disappearance” that is the fundamental answer to the question of where are all the dead birds, but as you said disappearance in a recognizable form. At least to me it feels like an important distinction, it’s more about not being able to understand or recognize where the dead birds are, not that they aren’t there at all. The phrasing of the articles leaves a sort of gap, bridged very nicely bridged by Naelin’s comments about having the trained eye being more the reason for not knowing where all the urban birds die. Just seems a bit clearer and more complete (and potentially helpful) to make the distinction of complete disappearance vs recognizable disappearance for anyone who is deeply curious about where the birds die.


This has been a delightful topic to read, thank you all. I had this question in my mind for a while too, just hadn’t asked yet. And look what an interesting conversation asking the question has led to. Thanks!


Yes, so much practical Experiences and immense knowledge in this respect of so many respected persons here have overwhelmed me. I’m still going through each and every comment and links provided thoroughly to make a concrete Idea. Thanks to everybody.

If they’re dying in public spaces (streets, parks) could it be that they’re being removed in the course of routine street cleaning?

Start at 1min https://youtu.be/FGzfikFU3rg?si=fyz2XyIAzTHYS1kS

Some decades back, sparrows were numerous. Now it seems sparrows are fewer maybe due to some changes in building design. There were some wooden electrical boxes mounted on walls that was the perfect nesting box.
Dead urban birds will be the birds that hit the glass of skyscrapers. These birds tend to be migratory birds exhausted by long flights. or died beside the roads. Some doves are taken by cats.These days cats are well fed with cat food. When the bird carcass is in a field of a park, ants will devour the flesh very quickly. Ants are very numerous. Crows will eat small dead birds like sparrows by swallowing whole. Some of the crows fly a great distance daily over country border. I haven’t seen a dead crow that often. Crows can be numerous. Probably finished off by ants. Carrion beetles, maggots of flesh fly, botflies, soldier fly larvae will decompose the flesh leaving feathers and bones. Local scientists seems to want some dead rare birds species. If such species are discovered freshly dead, they might make arrangement for collection. so a few dead birds are sent to some facilities.

Couldn’t follow it properly. The answer is “Rooftop or Forest?”
More accurate answer will be “in this Universe itself” -but that was not the desired answer. Hahhaha.

High rise windows, being hit by cars.

I saw several ducks and geese die in the pond in my local park. Someplace on iNat there is a photo of one being devoured by a pond slider.

Cats which should not be allowed to run free.