About the project:
This blog is a condensed look at bird/window collision monitoring projects in SE Michigan.
Q: Why are buildings being monitored?
Bird deaths at windows are predictable and preventable.
When a building is known to kill high numbers of birds, it should be monitored long enough to determine which windows are problematic to better understand the nature of collisions (some buildings kill birds mostly at night, others are mostly during the day) so that plans can be made to modify the windows and prevent further deaths. Dead birds found during the study are donated to the University of Michigan's collection for use as study specimens.
Q: What do you do with the birds you find?
STATE AND FEDERAL PERMITS ARE REQUIRED to legally possess native birds, their feathers, bones, eggs, etc. We do not keep any of the birds that we pick up: we technically "salvage" our finds rather than "collect" because we do not kill birds. All fresh, usable dead birds are frozen immediately and taken at the end of each season to the University of Michigan's Museum of Zoology because contributing to research is a way to ensure that these needless deaths can contribute to science.
Live but injured birds are taken to state and federally permitted local wildlife rehabilitation centers immediately: head trauma is very serious and the sooner they can be treated, the better!
Q: How do you pick buildings to monitor?
14a-2 District Court: The building's mirrored windows on the second floor reflect trees in an otherwise treeless section of downtown Ypsilanti.
Ypsilanti District Library: The building's large portions of uninterrupted glass make it an easy candidate: its location near an excellent woodland, unfortunately, compounds the problem.
EMU buildings: Comparative data is helpful to assess relative risk. While zero dead birds is the ideal outcome, if funding is available to modify one building, it's important to have enough data to address the worst windows first.
To understand more about how birds see reflections in windows, and general information about bird strikes at windows, check our Resources page by clicking this link (or in the right sidebar).
Bird species and populations around the world are in decline; this is especially true of North America, where habitat fragmentation, buildings, cats, and overall human impact are pushing them to the limits of survival. If a cause of bird mortality is known and easily preventable, it is imperative to take measures to prevent further damage. When a building has a known problem with window collisions by birds, it's not going to get better with time: unfortunately, the longer a problematic building is left unmodified, the higher the death toll ultimately is. Assuming the average office park building kills roughly 25 birds per year (Hager et al, 2008 - Acopian Center link on Reference page) not including the survivors (of which, many will die elsewhere later due to internal injuries),
I have been picking up dead birds to donate to museum collections since the late 1990s. I focused exclusively on window collisions from 2003-2005 in southern Illinois (specimens donated to U.C. Santa Cruz, publication with S. Hager - pdf here) and performed pre-construction monitoring and post-construction collision monitoring at a wind farm in central Texas from 2006-2009. Additional specimens (2006-2014) have come from roadkill, cat kills, drought, hail, and power line strikes (specimens donated to Texas A&M University - some featured on bigbendnature.com). I currently serve as the Ypsilanti Regional Coordinator for Washtenaw Safe Passage and serve as the Safe Passage Great Lakes Committee Chair for Detroit Audubon.
I grew up in Michigan, and have been a naturalist and bird lover since childhood, and am passionate about reducing bird/window collisions. I received my bachelor's degree in environmental studies in 2015 from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, and I will be starting as a graduate student at the University of Michigan in September 2016, studying conservation ecology. While at U of M, I plan to continue raising awareness about bird-friendly windows throughout the campus and the community.