Nearly 1 billion birds die a year colliding into windows in the U.S. Learn how Birmingham Zoo’s Jessie Griswold is helping solve this problem.

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Birds that have died colliding into downtown Birmingham windows. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now.

According to a 2014  study, up to nearly 1 billion birds die from window collisions each year in the United States.

The issue of bird collisions has interested  the Birmingham Zoo’s Jessie Griswold for five to six years ever since she noticed birds were colliding into habitat areas at the zoo.

This year, as part of the Birmingham Zoo’s Passion Into Conservation Action (PICA) Program, Griswold began a pilot study on the impact the city of Birmingham has on migratory birds, specifically on birds that fly into windows as they make their way  through downtown.

From the Birmingham Zoo website.

As part of her research, Every morning before work, Griswold walks a designated path in downtown Birmingham where she looks for and collects birds that have collided into city buildings.

“I have learned a lot about wildlife in our city. You wouldn’t think there is a lot of wildlife, birds or any activity in downtown Birmingham – but there is. It just incredible. It is also interesting to see the city wake up and the people move around, but there are also birds, 100s of birds singing right as the sun is rising,” stated Griswold.

This spring, she has collected  75 birds that have died on the streets of downtown Birmingham after they have struck buildings and windows. She has identified 28 different species of birds from that list.  Griswold walks the same  route every morning  5 days a week.

Jessie Griswold has collected 75 birds this Spring in downtown Birmingham that have fatally collided into windows and buildings.. 28 different species have been identified. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now.

“It is not really the number (of birds), it is the species that gets to me.  A Kentucky warbler for example, I’ve only seen a very few of them out birding. Some of my favorite birds are on this list. That hurts,” said Griswold.

 Solutions – Stop birds from hitting windows

To birds, trees and sky reflected in glass appear to be habitat. They fly into windows at high speeds, and the loss of life is staggering. There are solutions.  The American Bird Conservancy is a great organization that works with manufacturers to develop bird-safe glass and provide easy solutions for homeowners.  Muhlenberg College’s Acopian Center for Ornithology offers one of the best websites about preventing bird window collision.

At the Birmingham Zoo, through Griswold’s efforts, they have begun making their windows safer. Below is an example of the window near the bear habitat.  Note the “bear friendly” stickers.  This can also be done at residences.

Small stickers strategically placed can help prevent birds from flying into windows. Photo taken at the Birmingham Zoo by Pat Byington for Bham Now.
Sign explaining the importance of bird friendly tape that be can used on glass to prevent window collisions. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now.
Bird collision
Example of a residence using bird friendly measures. Photo for Bham Now.
Why birds are important

In the big picture, why should we care about birds? Jessie Griswold passionately summed up why birds are important to all of us.

“Birds are incredibly important to our ecosystem. They are important for spreading tree seeds, and pest control, including worms and bugs. A lot of our predator birds are window strike birds. So, those are our rodent control, and the things that trickle down from that. And birds are beautiful. They are absolutely beautiful if you take the time to appreciate them. They are easy to see. Just out there for all of us.”

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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