News

Stopping bird collisions and protecting Ocracoke’s feathered friends

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A cedar waxwing. Photo by P. Vankevich

By Pat Garber
Bird lovers saw high numbers of cedar waxwings migrate through the village this spring. Dressed in black masks with silky brown and yellow plumage and capped with perky crests, they descended upon the berries offered up by our native trees.
Sadly, many of these delightful birds met untimely deaths as a result of collisions with the windows in our buildings.
This was not unusual. Collisions with human structures are one of the main causes of death for an estimated 300 million to a billion birds.
While cell towers and windmills take a heavy toll, the biggest threat is glass windows.
Most collisions occur during spring and fall migrations, and most of the victims are song birds.
“Birds do not perceive conventionally-formulated glass as a solid barrier,” according to the American Bird Conservancy.  Since birds are not able to detect glass as an obstacle, reflections in windows of trees often seem like the real deal.
Many birds migrate at night, and they are attracted to and distracted by outdoor lights and lights inside of buildings, leading to collision deaths.   Turning off lights at night can help prevent bird collisions with windows.
There are ways to prevent these small but heart-breaking tragedies, and there are resources to help.
The American Bird Conservancy oversees a Bird Collision Campaign to teach people how to make the windows in buildings bird-safe.
The company Feather Friendly Technologies has been working with bird experts for over 10 years to create marketable solutions.
As an incentive to builders, the U.S. Green Building Council offers “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) guidelines and credits for those who build with bird-friendly materials and designs.
Birds see more ultra-violet colors than humans.
Orilux, a window glass recently developed in Germany, uses UV colors and reduces collisions by 71 percent.
A study by Feather Friendly Technologies found that bird-safe window films reduced bird collisions by 97 percent in one city.
Experts at the American Bird Conservancy stress that “You CAN save birds from flying into your windows.”  The time to modify your home or other structures is before fall and spring migrations.
If you plan to build or add on to your present structures, incorporate bird-friendly guidelines into the plans, or choose one or more of the suggestions in the sidebar below to modify windows.
The small, fragile creatures we call songbirds, many of which are listed as endangered or threatened species, perform incredible feats as they migrate hundreds or thousands of miles. They encounter an untold number of dangers on the way. Humans can to make their journeys easier, and their stopovers on Ocracoke safe refuges.
For more information, visit www.birdsavers.com or www.birdscreen.com.
If you do find a bird injured in a collision, place it in a dark safe space, such as a small box or paper bag, with a few holes for air. If it revives and seems strong, release it.
On Ocracoke, wildlife rehabilitator Elizabeth Hanrahan can be reached at 252-928-2604.