Now that countless birds have finished their spring journey, there are human obstacles that can be a dangerous journey.
In the United States alone, hundreds of millions of birds jump into buildings and die each year. In fact, this phenomenon has significantly reduced the populations of some bird species.
The Philadelphia group is doing something about it.
Before sunrise, Audubon Society volunteer Stephen Macheevsky searches for the fallen birds in Philadelphia’s Center City.
“It’s very dark at night,” Maciejewski told Brook Silva-Braga. “So they see the light and want to get in there for some reason. They don’t understand that the glass is hard.”
Stephen’s daily report is packaged and sent to Keith Russell, Audubon Society’s Urban Conservation Program Manager. He has been helping Philadelphia solve global problems by recording dead birds for 15 years.
“It’s a factor in the decline of many species,” Russell said. “Since 1970, we have lost about one-third of the birds.”
There is some responsibility for the design of modern skyscrapers. Often, they are towers of reflective glass, which appear to the birds to be more open.
In Philadelphia, this issue received little attention until Maciejewski patrolled one morning last October. He said he found about 300 dead birds in a building.
A cloudy night at the height of autumn migration caused the slaughter.
“A man brought a dustpan of birds. He threw it in front of me. There were 75 birds, some alive and many dead.” Said Macheewski. “It was a tough day.”
His photo of the slaughter graced the attention-grabbing headlines of people like Cory Gunselman, who manages the Philadelphia skyscraper ONE Liberty Place.
“To be honest, that was a problem,” Gunselman said. “We are aware that there is a real conflict.”
Thanks to industry groups, building managers like Gunsellman have finally listened to Russell’s suggestions.
Gunselman added her building to the program. Lights Out Philadelphia has similar programs in nearly 40 other cities in the United States.
Jason Wexstein, an ornithologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, said, “I sometimes navigate with stars, so I might be attracted to the light.” He added that there was reason to believe that the dark sky would solve the problem.
However, skyscrapers make up only a small part of all buildings. In a normal house, more birds are killed.
Damian Ruffner, Education Manager at the Philadelphia Discovery Center, makes a suggestion. He says that reflections can be split if small vinyl dots or vertical lines of 4 inches or less are placed on the window.
However, intentionally blocking views can be a difficult sale.
“It’s definitely something you can consider,” Gunselman said. “One is that we don’t want to lose the luster of the beautiful double-glazed windows that characterize this building.”
Nevertheless, Russell cares that his city finally seems to have noticed a bird.
“It’s really great to have worked in this area for a long time,” he said. “I’m really excited. I’m very proud to be a Philadelphia.”
There were no major bird strikes in Philadelphia this spring. The lights of the city buildings will be on soon.
But when the birds return south in the fall, Russell has already promised that the brightest light in the central city will be the moon again.