Project BirdSafe

Ovenbird Rebecca Field
Rebecca Field

Ovenbird

Project BirdSafe is a joint effort to reduce the number of birds killed or injured when they collide with structures such as buildings.

BirdSafe Buildings

Birds hit buildings at night and during the day for different reasons. At night migrating birds can be drawn off course by bright lights in our cities. Lights Out Twin Cities is an effort to reduce unnecessary lighting during spring and fall migration.

During the day the problem is reflection or other confusing aspects of glass. You can do many things to have a more BirdSafe Home. Larger more commercial buildings can address bird safety during initial design or by retrofitting problem windows. Our Bird-Safe Building Guidelines provide details and examples.

BirdSafe Research

Research is helping us learn more about bird collisions locally. Using volunteer help, we are monitoring designated routes in Minneapolis and St. Paul to answer some of the basic scientific questions about bird collisions such as: How many birds are affected in Minnesota? What species are they? And, What factors create the most risk?

BirdSafe is a Joint Effort

Project BirdSafe in Minnesota is a joint effort by Audubon Minnesota, the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program, the Bell Museum of Natural History, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, the National Parks Service, St. Paul Audubon Society, the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, Zumbro Valley Audubon, BOMA Minneapolis and BOMA St. Paul.

You can Help

You can help in two important ways: One is to make your windows at home safe for birds. Another way is to volunteer to help survey downtown buildings during migration for fallen birds -- email Audubon Minnesota. Training is required.

Complete the volunteer form and fax or e-mail it to the address on the form if you are interested in volunteering.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How many birds are killed each year in collisions with windows?
The question seems like an easy one but the answer is we just don't know. Our research and monitoring locally is helping us to understand numbers and species affected here. Internationally, estimates vary widely and are likely in the hundreds of millions. But while scientists may continue to debate the numbers, most agree that bird collisions are a source of potentially significant and indiscriminate mortality for birds, many of which are already in serious decline due to other pressures. Unlike some of the other major threats to birds, such as habitat loss and pesticide use, this is something that citizens can do something about.

What kinds of birds collide with buildings?
Bird mortality from window strikes has been recorded in more than half the bird species in the United States. Many of our favorite birds are included on this list, including ruby-throated hummingbirds, song sparrows, hermit thrushes, many kinds of warblers, indigo buntings, black-capped chickadees and gray catbirds.

Over 250 species migrate through Minnesota, many of them small songbirds that migrate at night. Some of these are threatened species whose populations already show steep declines. Ironically, common city birds such as rock pigeons and house sparrows are infrequent collision victims. This may be due to these species' adaptations for living among buildings.

Birds have been migrating for millennia -- why don't they learn to avoid buildings?
Birds collide with windows in the daytime when they see the outdoors reflected in the glass and think they have a clear flight path. Most migrants fly at night, and the artificial lights in tall buildings confuse them and cause them either to crash into the structure or circle it repeatedly until falling to the ground in exhaustion. Tall lighted buildings are especially lethal in fog, low clouds and rain.

As the human population grows, we build more and more structures, and the areas that are attractive to humans--riverbanks, coasts, shorelines--are birds' traditional migratory pathways. Our built environment is proving to be more and more of a challenge to migrating birds.

If buildings are so dangerous, why don't we see piles of dead birds on the sidewalk each day?
Many of the birds that strike windows are killed outright and fall to the ground where predators, such as gulls, crows, cats and other scavengers quickly carry them off or they are cleaned up by maintenance workers. Those that survive an impact may be too injured to fly and find some place to hide as the city wakes up. Those that retain flight ability may be so frightened by the noise and activity of a city in daytime that they fly up and collide with a building again.

How many birds are killed each year in St. Paul and Minneapolis?
We have been monitoring limited routes in the Twin Cities since 2007 in order to estimate the size of the problem in the Twin Cities. Trained volunteers survey our routes in both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul during spring and fall migration to collect fallen birds. Live birds can often be released or taken to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville if injured. Dead birds are taken to Bell Museum of Natural History where information is recorded about their age, sex, species, and the location where they were found. To date we have found over 100 species of birds at just a handful of buildings being monitored throughout the state.

Why should we care if some birds are lost on migration in this way?
As stewards of the environment everyone should be concerned about conserving birds. Birds perform many useful functions, from pollination to seed dispersal to insect control. In spring their return signals the renewal of the seasons just as their fall departure precedes the changeover to winter. Their songs and daily activity bring joy to nearly everyone. We can save millions of birds by turning off the lights in tall buildings at night. Migration is such an arduous business for birds, we should do everything we can to make it easier for them.

Copyright  2013 National Audubon Society, Inc

Sponsors