I admit it, I’m a bird person. Any kind of birds. Chickens, quail, parakeets, turkeys, king vultures, golden pheasants, emus. And migratory birds. So in the fall and the spring, I help migratory birds navigate Chicago’s Loop.
A Unfortunate Banner Day
Sunday, 9/26/2010, was a big migration day, and my team from Chicago Bird Collision Monitors picked up over 260 live birds and hundreds (I’m guessing 500-600) of dead birds in downtown Chicago.
These birds are our brightly colored, tiny treasures: warblers, thrushes, hummingbirds, sapsuckers, wrens, kinglets, brown creepers, and others. So why do they hit buildings? What’s going on?
Chicago and Migration Paths
Chicago is on a major migratory flight path between North and South America. You can see from this map (from http://www.birdnature.com/mississippi.html) that Chicago is a major intersection of migratory flyways from Canada and the northern United States.
The Draw of the Big City
Birds who are passing through in the early morning hours are drawn to the lights of the city and come down. They are attracted to lighted lobby and office windows and landscaping inside buildings. They get lost in steel and glass canyons, spiraling downward from exhaustion, not realizing that up is out.
These birds do not understand glass, so they will fly into it, thinking they can reach the trees or lights inside. Many die on the street every day in the spring and fall. They sustain head injuries from collisions with glass; they are stepped on, run over by cars, and eaten by gulls and crows. Some die of fright.
How CBCM Helps
I volunteer with Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, and once a week (or more) during the fall and spring, I walk the streets from the crack of dawn until 9 or 10, collecting injured, stunned, and dead birds.
The live birds go to Willowbrook Wildlife Center for rehab and release. The dead go to the Field Museum for documentation and research purposes.
CBCM records data from each bird found and works with building owners and management companies for LIGHTS OUT CHICAGO! a campaign to lower or turn off excess building lights during the spring and fall migrations. A few hours a year of no building lights can save lots of dollars and lots of avian lives.
How You Can Help
You can donate, volunteer, or work with your building staff to help birds navigate the Loop. Contact CBCM at 773-988-1867.
If you have an injured or dead bird, call 773-988-1867!