Birds do not understand glass. They see the reflection of open sky or trees and fly into windows at incredible speeds. These collisions, in both cities and residential areas, may claim the lives of as many as one billion birds in the US each year. But there's hope! Through programs like New York City Audubon’s Project Safe Flight and Toronto’s Fatal Light Awareness Program, volunteers are helping scientists get a handle on the problem.
Listen to the extended story on BirdNote Presents.
Birds and Glass - Community Science
Written by Mark Bramhill
This is BirdNote.
Bird populations in North America have declined by nearly 30% since the 1960s, according to new research from the journal Science. There are a number of factors at play. But one of the big ones is collisions with glass windows, both in cities and residential areas, that claim the lives of as many as one billion birds in the US each year. Birds see the reflection of open sky or trees and fly into windows at incredible speeds.
Through programs like New York City Audubon’s Project Safe Flight and Toronto’s Fatal Light Awareness Program, volunteers are helping scientists get a handle on how bad things are.
[Ambi comes up]
Once a week during migration season, Calista McCrae wakes up early and walks the streets of New York City on a kind of morbid treasure hunt, looking for dead birds. We’re in downtown Manhattan, on the sidewalk beneath glistening glass skyscrapers.
Calista McCrae: This is a bird that's so messed up that I'm not quite sure what the species is…
But as grim as this work is, it’s actually helped Calista. Before she began volunteering, seeing these birds was almost unbearable.
Calista McCrae: I would get a real pit in my stomach… it really does get to me. So now, with Project Safe Flight, noticing dead birds might eventually count towards something.
This information is key to helping scientists understand the problem that window strikes pose to birds — how many are dying each year, what birds are most affected, and what cities are the most dangerous.
You can hear an extended story about birds and glass on our podcast, BirdNote Presents. Subscribe in your podcast app, or find it at our website, BirdNote.org.
I’m Mark Bramhill.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2020 BirdNote March 2020 Narrator: Mark Bramhill
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