Column: A bird’s dilemma: Is it window or is it sky?Ah! Migration .… What a wonderful time to watch birds! Duluth is on a major migration corridor, with the north shore of Lake Superior funneling birds right through town, much to the delight of the many bird watchers who flock to Hawk Ridge and Park Point from all over.
By: Jane Cleave, For the Budgeteer News
“Even the darkness moves with the passage of birds. On soft spring midnights, the air is alive with the flight notes of unseen birds filtering down through the moonlight like the voices of stars.”
Scott Weidensaul, Living on the Wind
Ah! Migration .… What a wonderful time to watch birds! Duluth is on a major migration corridor, with the north shore of Lake Superior funneling birds right through town, much to the delight of the many bird watchers who flock to Hawk Ridge and Park Point from all over.
But with migration comes an unfortunate consequence. Already declining bird populations are further threatened by buildings, glass windows, and nighttime illumination. These problems are accentuated during migration.
Most birds travel at night, and illuminated buildings, especially tall ones, are hazardous. The buildings’ lights confuse birds, drawing them off course and disrupting their ability to navigate. Also, the bright lights and “skyglow” around the buildings attract migrating birds, particularly during bad weather conditions such as fog.
Once migrating birds have become confused by the lights, they are more likely to collide with the buildings. Even if they avoid a collision, they are still vulnerable. Once a bird flies inside a beam of light, it is hesitant to fly back out into the dark sky again. It may fly around until it drops to the ground, exhausted. If the bird is not killed, it is vulnerable to predators looking for an easy meal. And if the bird avoids becoming dinner, it will have trouble finding food in the strange urban environment.
Buildings with glass windows are also very dangerous for birds during daylight hours. Birds do not see glass as an obstacle. Birds see only the things they know and need, such as familiar habitat and open sky. When these essentials are reflected on a glazed surface or glass panels, birds will collide with the glass. Collisions occur with windows of all sizes, in all seasons and weather conditions, and in every type of environment.
It’s a fact: Glass windows cause bird collisions and these colli-
sions kill significant numbers of birds of nearly all species.
People find many dead birds on the downtown streets of North American cities each morning, especially during migration.
What can we do to help reduce these deaths? Duluth Audu-bon Society (DAS), together with Project BirdSafe, is helping.
First, DAS is promoting “Lights Out,” a program that works with building managers to reduce the nighttime building lighting that draws birds off course during migration. Do you work at or manage a downtown building? Talk to us about how we may work together.
Second, DAS will monitor downtown buildings to learn more about the numbers and species of birds that fall victim to local window collisions.
Finally, DAS is working to educate our community, in particular its architects and city planners, about bird-safe building designs. We hope that once people become aware of bird-safe building options, new construction in Duluth will take our unique position along a major bird migration corridor into consideration, and choose buildings with features that reduce the risk of bird-window collisions.
Poised between the largest freshwater lake in the world and the vast northern forests, Duluth is unique, and one of the premier birding areas in the country. Wild birds are our frequent neighbors, making our city even more beautiful and contributing to Duluth’s tourism, drawing birdwatchers here from everywhere.
Let’s do our best to safeguard these neighbors and preserve the wildness that makes our city so special.
Jane Cleave is the president of the Duluth Audubon Society.
Wildwoods is a 501(c)(3) wildlife rehabilitation organization in
Duluth. For more information on wildlife and how you can help,
including volunteer opportunities, visit www.wildwoodsrehab.org. For more information on the Duluth Audubon Society and Project Birdsafe, visit: www.duluth audubon.org and http://mn.audubon.org/