US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in The Prairie Naturalist 28(1): March 1996.


Recently, Allen and Ramirez (1990, Wilson Bull. 102:553-558) summarized known observations of bird mortality associated with barbed-wire fences. Most reported cases of bird mortality from barbed-wire fences were of non-passerine birds. On 16 June 1993 in Slope County in western North Dakota (NW 1/4, Sec. 10 T134N R103W), I found a dead western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) with its right wing impaled by a barb on the middle strand of a three-strand barbed-wire fence. Barbs on the wire were spaced about 12-15 cm apart. The bird was adult-sized, but plumage characteristics indicated that it was a young-of-the-year with well-developed flight feathers. The fence was situated along a right-of-way of a seldom-traveled gravel road. Surrounding habitat on both sides of the road was native mixed-grass prairie. The position of the bird suggested that it collided with the fence and was impaled while flying from the prairie toward the right-of-way, indicating that the bird had not been forced from the roadside into the fence by an approaching vehicle.