A study published in the journal Conservation Physiology has revealed the effect of fireworks on Greylag Geese in Austria.
The Anglia Ruskin University-led research showed that the birds' heart rates increase by 96% when fireworks are being let off, but it will require further study to find out whether it is the sound, the flashes or the combination of the two that drives the stress.
The increase in heart rate and body temperature in the Greylag Geese during New Year celebrations was the results of panicked flight and psychological stress (Neil Loverock).
Temporary transmitters were attached to 20 wild Greylag Geese at Almsee Lake in Upper Austria to monitor any physiological stress by New Year's Eve fireworks. As well as the increase in average heart rate from 63 to 124 beats per minute, average body temperature increased from 38 to 39 degrees celcius, all in the first hour of New Year's Day.
It took until 5 am for readings to return to average levels, among older and younger birds alike, suggesting that the geese do not become accustomed to fireworks with age.
The study is one of the first to investigate the effects of fireworks on wild animals, after a series of studies looking at the impact of the displays on companion animals.
Claudia Wascher, who led the research, said: "Many people get a lot of enjoyment from fireworks but it’s important that we consider animals – both pets and wildlife – whenever planning a display. It’s clear from our study that we should certainly avoid using fireworks in areas with large wildlife populations."
Wascher, C F, Arnold, W, & Kotrschal, K. 2022. Effects of severe anthropogenic disturbance on the heart rate and body temperature in free-living Greylag Geese (Anser anser). Conservation Physiology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/coac050