One explanation for making a cell phone tower (or cell site) look like a tree is to make it less dangerous for birds. Currently, these large cell phone towers have caused widespread avian tragedy as birds strike them in fatal impacts. This phenomenon, known as towerkill, occurs in very high numbers. Unfortunately, these accounts have actually not dwindled in the time since cell phone providers started disguising their towers as trees, and there is little evidence demonstrating any benefit that camouflaged trees provide to birds. The website www.towerkill.com compiles fatalities related to bird-tower collision in North America, broken down into 6-year increments in different states and provinces to illustrate the extent of this.
In truth, tree-masked cell phone towers are really just for people. Telecommunication companies began camouflaging the structures to combat public scrutiny from both their appearance and the potential fears related to their presence when they first appeared. Since then, camouflaging cell towers has become common practice.
However, the major problem here is that these cell phone towers, to many people, do not look like trees. Instead of blending in with the tree canopy, these embellished towers, which already stand higher than many nearby trees, are said to stand out even more than plain cell phone towers.
In addition, their costs really add up for something that is believed by many to not work. All of the additions made to the towers to alter their appearance can cost up to $150,000, four times the price of a naked tower.
However, the complaints against these tree-like towers do not necessarily indicate that they fail as camouflage. The molded metal and plastic components that serve to conceal the towers are made to appear identical to the bark, branches, and needles or leaves of a tree, especially from a distance. Because of this, and the many variations that exist with their design, it is very possible that most people, even those who complain about them, do not notice a lot of the camouflaged towers that they pass.
Whether or not these cell phone towers disguised as trees are fooling anyone, they are not inhibiting any functions as telecommunications structures. According to Larson Camouflage, a prominent company for camouflaging cell phone towers and other structures, all of their products adhere to relevant International Code Council (ICC) and telecommunications standards.