Fact Check

Did a 5G Cellular Network Test Cause Hundreds of Birds to Die?

The theory that a 5G network test caused the unexplained death of birds in The Hague relies on such a test's actually having taken place.

Published Nov. 13, 2018

Updated Sept. 24, 2019
The test of a 5G cellular network is the cause of unexplained bird deaths occurring in a park in The Hague, Netherlands.

On 5 November 2018, Erin Elizabeth’s medical conspiracy blog Health Nut News “reported” a seemingly disturbing story out of the Netherlands with the headline “Hundreds of birds dead during 5G experiment in The Hague, The Netherlands.” It turned out that Elizabeth's article was the wholesale regurgitation of a series of Facebook posts authored by a man named John Kuhles who runs several anti-5G conspiracy websites and social media pages.

Kuhles, who recently suggested that the devastating November 2018 California wildfires were triggered by a direct energy weapon as an act of revenge from the “Ruling Elite” to punish the state for vetoing a “mass 5G deployment” plan, tied the factual existence of unexplained bird deaths at a park (Huijgenspark) in The Hague, Netherlands, to a non-existent test of a next generation cell phone network (5G) that Kuhles claimed (without evidence) took place simultaneous with the bird deaths:

About a week ago at The Hague, many birds died spontaneously, falling dead in a park. You likely haven’t heard a lot about this because it seems keeping it quiet was the plan all along. However, when about 150 more suddenly died- bringing the death toll to 297- some started to take notice.

And if you are looking around that park you might have seen what is on the corner of the roof across the street from where they died: a new 5G mast, where they had done a test, in connection with the Dutch railway station, to see how large the range was and whether no harmful equipment would occur on and around the station.

And harm happened, indeed. Immediately afterward, birds fell dead from the trees. And the nearby ducks that were swimming seemed to react very oddly as well; they were simultaneously putting their heads underwater to escape the radiation while others flew away, landing on the street or in the canal. Again, almost at the exact same time that those animals died, near the station, Holland Spoor was tested with a 5G transmitter mast ... All the information that follows comes from John Kuhles’ public Facebook page.

Did Hundreds of Birds Die in a Short Period of Time at Huijgenspark?

It is true a series of mysterious bird deaths has occurred at a park in The Hague. According to the municipal government, the birds began to die on 19 October 2018, and soon afterwards those deaths inspired a dog ban in Huijgenspark as a precautionary measure:

Between Friday, 19 October and Saturday, 3 November 2018, 337 dead starlings and 2 dead common wood pigeons were found. The municipality cannot rule out the possibility that the birds were poisoned. This is why the municipality has taken extra precautionary measures and announced a temporary ban on dogs for Huygenspark.

Testing performed by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority ruled out West Nile virus and the usutu virus, but it had not yet ruled out other viruses or poisoning as of 12 November 2018. A team of experts will continue to investigate the cause of these deaths:

The municipality, together with De Wulp bird rescue, has asked experts in fauna research to look into this question. The cause of death for the birds is being investigated by Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (Lelystad), Dutch Wildlife Health Centre (Utrecht), Erasmus University (Rotterdam) and Universiteit Gent. Initial results are expected in mid-November 2018.

Mysterious bird deaths, though great fodder for conspiracy cranks, are not uncommon. Due to their unexplained nature, they are popular with those seeking to stoke fears or make political or religious points. In 2011, for example, Arkansas, Louisiana, and parts of Sweden were the site of thousands of bird deaths in a short time, which the media dubbed "the aflockalypse." Contemporaneous reporting by the Associated Press made it clear that these mass die-offs are quite common and often unexplained:

Since the 1970s, the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin has tracked mass deaths among birds, fish and other critters, said wildlife disease specialist LeAnn White. At times the sky and the streams just turn deadly. Sometimes it's disease, sometimes pollution. Other times it's just a mystery ... On average, 163 such events are reported to the federal government each year, according to USGS records.

Did a 5G Wireless Test Take Place Near Huijgenspark at the Time of the Bird Deaths?

5G is the proposed 5th generation cellular network, and it is technology that is largely still in development. Various countries have tested forms of it, including The Netherlands, but its widespread adoption is not expected until 2020. We will discuss the technical aspects of 5G compared to existing cellular technology in the next section, but widespread access to this technology is a priority for the Dutch government, and they have performed tests of the technology a handful of times.

One such test did occur in an area generally near Huijgenspark, but it took place on 28 June 2018, and it was not followed by a massive bird die-off. For this test, the Dutch equivalent of the FCC provided a one-day permit for the telecommunication company Huawei to use the 5G frequencies needed for the test:

Huawei has demonstrated a live 5G network in The Hague, using 100 MHz of spectrum in the C-band at 3.5 GHz. As the frequencies are not normally available for mobile services in the Netherlands, the Telecom Agency granted a special one-day permit for the demonstration at the KPN office in the Voorburg area. The band is available for local licensing, but in allotments far smaller than the full 100 MHz width that is standardized for 5G.

No evidence suggests that any other 5G test ever occurred in The Hague or that a 5G antenna was installed near that park conveniently out of view. We reached out via Twitter to the Dutch company NS, the operator of the train station allegedly involved in the 5G test, and a representative told us that they were “unaware that recent 5G tests were conducted at this location.” A representative of KPN, the largest mobile operator in The Netherlands, told us via Twitter that “I can be very clear about this matter; there are no 5G tests in Den Haag. This is a complete hoax.” Huawei, the cellular provider who took part in the one-day June test, did not respond to our inquiry about a test occurring, but the Dutch equivalent to the FCC asserted that no such test occurred.

It bears mentioning that Kuhles has since walked back his claim that a 5G test occurred at all (though this fact does not appear to have dissuaded Erin Elizabeth from running with her story), and he has now moved the goalposts so far as to claim that perhaps it was just a whole lot of 4G LTE networks getting up in those birds’ business. Either way, from a scientific standpoint his ideas would generously be described as dubious.

Could 5G Technology Have Caused Something Like This in the First Place?

Promoters of 5G technology promise faster data rates along with reduced energy and financial cost. For the most part, these improvements will come from utilizing higher frequency radio bands and the development of more advanced cellular towers:

Typically when a new mobile wireless technology comes along (like 5G), it’s assigned a higher radio frequency ... The reason new wireless technologies occupy higher frequencies is because they typically aren’t in use and move information at a much faster speed. The problem is that higher frequency signals don’t travel as far as lower frequencies, so multiple input and output antennas (MIMOs) will probably be used to boost signals anywhere 5G is offered.

In Europe, 5G will make use of three frequency ranges: a low-frequency 700MHz “coverage layer,” a 3.4-3.8GHz band which will be the primary bandwidth, and a “super data layer” in the higher frequency 24.25-27.5GHz band. This latter range is more theoretical and is not what has been tested in The Netherlands thus far, as the only known test of 5G in the Hague utilized the 3.4-3.8GHz band. Regardless, all of these frequencies fall within a range considered by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (first in 1998 and again in 2009) to be safe:

It is the opinion of ICNIRP that the scientific literature published since the 1998 guidelines has provided no evidence of any adverse effects below the basic restrictions and does not necessitate an immediate revision of its guidance on limiting exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields ... The plausibility of the various non-thermal mechanisms that have been proposed is very low. In addition, the recent in vitro and animal genotoxicity and carcinogenicity studies are rather consistent overall and indicate that such effects are unlikely at low levels of exposure. Therefore, ICNIRP reconfirms the 1998 basic restrictions in the frequency range 100 kHz–300 GHz until further notice.

Radio waves used in cellular technology can be described both by their frequency (or wavelength) and in terms of the energy being used to carry that frequency. The aforementioned restrictions refer to limits on the energy carrying a signal, which create exposure limits for various frequencies. Dr. Eric van Rongen, a member of the Health Council of the Netherlands and the Chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, told us via email that the levels of exposure in the 5G frequency range are comparable to existing technology:

The levels of exposure would be comparable to those of the current (3G and 4G) networks, and thus very low, much lower than the exposure limits. The only way one could imagine death of birds as a result of exposure to electromagnetic fields is with very high level exposure that results in considerable heating ... But the levels that are used by mobile telecom antennas are not strong enough for this to happen. There are maybe millions of such antennas around the world and this has never been reported.

“Even if there would have been 5G exposure,” he told us, it is “very unlikely that that could cause the [bird] mortality.”

“My 5G Conclusions Are Assertions/Conjecture with A QUESTION Mark!”

One of the great benefits to being a conspiracy blogger, outside of the fact that copy and pasting a Facebook post counts as “reporting” and that objective reality need not be considered, is that you don’t really need to follow up or correct yourself even when the person pushing a given conspiracy completely changes his tune. Erin Elizabeth’s post, which has been shared well over 125,000 times on Facebook, included all of Khule’s posts on the subject up to 2 November 2018.

But on 8 November 2018, Kuhles posted again, appealing to his own authority while making sure everyone knew he wasn’t really all that serious about that whole 5G thing in the first place. He brushed off factual criticism by calling his doubters sheeple and capitalizing certain words to make the letters LIE more prominent:

Some think there is "no 5G" in Den Haag. That is a lie (or mis-perception) the so called "conclusions" of some (pseudo)-skeptics. Some "Authorities" claim a lot and is parroted by lesser authorities and beLIEved by the masses ... it is a system of beLIEfs, false assumptions copy catted ... That problem is with almost all controversial topics, nothing new ... most ppl just love to be told "what is" ... My 5G conclusions are assertions/conjecture with a QUESTION mark!

As compelling as this kind of testimony may be to Erin Elizabeth’s Health Nut News, the facts are this: No 5G test occurred during the time that the mysterious starling deaths occurred, and the only person suggesting otherwise is someone with a vendetta against both objective reality and 5G wireless. Even if a 5G test had occurred, however, no mechanism exists that would explain how it could have affected starlings at all, let alone only starlings and no other birds or animals in the region.


Elizabeth, Erin.   "Hundreds of Birds Dead During 5G Experiment in the Hague, the Netherlands."     Health Nut News.   5 November 2018.

DenHaag.nl.   "Huygenspark: Temporary Ban on Dogs."     12 November 2018.

Borenstein, Seth.   "Technology to Blame for Animal Die-Off Panic."     Associated Press.   7 January 2011.

Wall, Matthew.   "What Is 5G and What Will It Mean for You?"     BBC News.   24 July 2018.

Government.nl.   "Connectivity Action Plan."     13 July 2018.

Telecompaper.   "Huawei Demos Live 5G Network in Netherlands."     28 June 2018.

Nunez, Michael.   "What Is 5G and How Will It Make My Life Better?"     Gizmodo.   24 February 2016.

Rogerson, James.   "5G Frequencies in the UK."     5g.co.uk.   Accessed 13 November 2018.

International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).   “Guidelines for Limiting Exposure to Time-varying Electric, Magnetic, and Electromagnetic Fields (Up to 300 GHz).”     Health Physics.   1998.

International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).   “ICNIRP Statement on the "Guidelines for Limiting Exposure to Time-varying Electric, Magnetic, and Electromagnetic Fields (Up to 300 GHz)".”     Health Physics.   2009.


Correction [24 September 2019]: Corrected spelling of Kuhles.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.