April 28, 2020 / 9:22 PM / a month ago

False claim: Pictures link bird deaths to new 5G mast in the Netherlands

A post shared on social media falsely links the deaths of hundreds of birds to the testing of 5G masts in the Netherlands (here).

This claim, posted on April 22 alongside two photographs of dead starlings, alleges that all of the birds in a park in a “west coast city” of the Netherlands have fallen to the ground and died. 

It adds: “Almost 150 more birds are starting to fall from the sky. People are confused. The problem is not only in the flying birds, some of the ducks swimming in the lake in the park don’t get enough air while trying to fly away and get into the roads that cars pass. The remaining ducks are always starting to put their heads in the water.”

The post connects the alleged incident to a “newly built 5G post on the building on the other side of the park,” which it says was being “tested at the time of death.” 

This is misleading. There are no recent reports of starlings dying en masse in a park in a western city of the Netherlands. Instead, the photo on the right which accompanies the Facebook post originates from an incident in October 2018 in Huijgenspark in The Hague, a Dutch city on the country’s west coast. The news report here includes a video that shows the photo of the dead bird at 51 seconds in.

The death of these birds in 2018 was not due to 5G. According to Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WUF), which carried out post-mortems on the birds, the primary cause of death was bleeding from trauma. Some natural poison - mostly likely from yew berries – were found in the organs of the starlings (here) (here). The institute acknowledged that it couldn’t guarantee that the birds were weakened by natural poison, but that it also couldn’t be ruled out. 

Separately, the Antenna Bureau of the Dutch government confirmed there had been no testing of 5G masts near that particular park in October 2018 (here). In a statement, it added that all transmission masts in the Netherlands are bound by safety standards and that “from measurements, radiation is well below the safety standards.”

The photo on the left in the Facebook post originates from a widely-reported incident of starling deaths in Anglesey in Wales, in late 2019 (here). According to an update on Twitter from North Wales Police’s rural crime team in March 2020, these birds were primarily killed after striking the tarmac or by piercing themselves on nearby bushes.

Sergeant Rob Taylor explained in a video post that following results from a veterinary examination, the deaths were “probably consistent with the birds avoiding either severe weather or a raptor in the area (here).

VERDICT 

False. There is no connection between the mass deaths of starlings to testing of 5G masts in the Netherlands.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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