Saturday, September 18, 2021

Birds vs Glass

Nature runs on its own clock, its own calendar.

It doesn't care what we humans come up with.   

Nature is now saying "fall is here" with purple asters...

...and white.

It's the last burst of the wildflowers I love to photograph.

Nature is also calling birds home.

Right now, fall bird migration is in progress. Did you know there is an Internet tool to help track bird migrations?  It's called BirdCast.  Tonight and tomorrow night, BirdCast predicts high migration levels in our area, about 150 miles from New York City.

Trigger alert: If you have a weak stomach, you may not want to click on the next link.

In cities such as New York City, however, another tragic fall is unfolding, as hundreds of dead migratory birds have been picked up in recent mornings.  226 just around the World Trade Center's Freedom tower - that beautiful tower that replaced buildings destroyed in the September 11 attacks.

Tuesday was a bad morning, especially.

Birds can't tell glass reflections from natural scenery.  Actually we humans can't, either, but we learn, at early ages, various cues that tell us nope, don't collide with that.

Birds don't get that education.  The cues that work for us, additionally, don't work for them.  So, it is estimated that possibly as many as one billion (no, that isn't a typo) birds die in collisions with human structures each year. (this link is safe to click on, and it contains fascinating information).

Hundreds of thousands of birds are migrating in North America right now and many will not make it to their destination.  

One thing I never realized until this year is that many of the summer birds we enjoy where I live in the Southern Tier of New York iare actually southern birds who summer here (like reverse snowbirds).  They come around April and May, and leave in September and October, heading back to the places they live in much of the year.  They aren't "our" birds.  In fact, some 40% of birds migrate - some short distances, some thousands of miles.

They come to our northern lands to breed, and our hearts are gladdened by their presence. But now Nature is calling them home.

Around 80% of them migrate at night.  The moon and stars guide them.  They don't have daytime thermals to deal with. Cooler temperatures help dispel the extra body heat of long distance flying.  I never realized that some of the night sounds aren't crickets, but, possibly, birds communicating with their fellow flyers.

The nighttime is busy and full of birds.

That's where turning off lights in city office buildings come in.   They won't be distracted by the light of artificial structures, and won't be drawn in to their doom.  But this solution isn't implemented often enough.  Here's one effort:  Lights out Philly.

Structures can also be designed to be less harmful to birds.  

For daytime collisions, there are other solutions, ones that homeowners (like me) should consider, because birds also collide with the windows of our homes.  I used to think "well, I don't see dead birds here in my yard, so why should I worry?" Turns out I'm wrong. 

I'm only starting my own birding journey, and I still have so much to learn.

One may ask, why should we care about some birds dying, when so many humans are suffering right now?  It's a good question.

But we depend on birds for so much - pollination, eating insects that hurt our survival, joyous song, and yes - the needed work of scavenging.  Let's not forget the billions of domestic birds that are direct members of our food chain, too (with apologies to my vegan and vegetarian readers.)

Birds need us.

But perhaps, even more, we need birds.


  1. Interesting, about glass and birds.
    Coffee is on and stay safe

  2. I just heard about this on the news. I hate the thought of dead birds.

  3. One of my neighbors has a picture of a young girl in her front window. We thought maybe it was a remembrance of some kind. No! It is to keep birds from flying into it! I have a house that has lots of glass, and birds are always flying at it.

  4. Turning off lights in office buildings is good for the power grid, too, I would think. Scary to think that so many birds are dying when they don't need to be. We do such damage to the environment in many ways.

  5. I grieve when anything dies needlessly or heedlessly. I had no idea of the numbers!


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