Birds are colliding with buildings all the time. During the day, it is usually from reflective buildings in green spaces that fool birds into thinking there is a clear path ahead. At night, birds are attracted to lights in the city and can become confused and disoriented. They will then, either collide with the building they do not see, or simply fly around a building until they drop from exhaustion.
Research is being done now to find out more about why birds collide with some buildings, so that we can eventually alleviate these hazards. A number of buildings in the Twin Cities are participating in the Lights Out program, which will help birds that migrate at night avoid deadly collisions. This program was created through Project BirdSafe- a group effort made by the Bell Museum of Natural History, Audubon Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Nongame Wildlife Program, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, and the Bird Conservation Minnesota.
Curator Bob Zink is lead researcher on the Project BirdSafe team, working closely with Joanne Eckles (Minnesota Audobon) and a group of volunteers to understand the impact of human structures on migrating birds.
Read the Bell Museum’s Imprint article to learn more about Project BirdSafe.
• In spring 2007, volunteers collected 174 birds of 52 species that had collided with buildings in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, and Rochester.
• In fall 2007, 363 birds of 49 species were collected.
• Most common birds found in spring 2007: ovenbird, Tennessee warbler, white-throated sparrow, dark-eyed junco, Nashville warbler.
• Most common birds found in fall 2007: Nashville warbler, white-throated sparrow, black-capped chickadee, Tennessee warbler, dark-eyed junco
• Over 250 species migrate through Minnesota, many of which are songbirds migrating at night; some of these birds have already shown steep declines in population.
• Ironically, common city birds- like rock pigeons and house sparrows- are infrequent collision victims.
• With all the research that has been done so far, we still don’t know how many birds are killed each year.