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.
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.
“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.
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.”