Many of us have witnessed it: We’re in our home or business and hear a loud smack. It sounds as if somebody tossed something against a window, but we quickly realize that it wasn’t some kid’s errant baseball — it was a hard-flying bird.
The bird sees the sky, woods, park or lawn and an open avenue for flight; a false reflection of safety. Unfortunately, they have no concept of the impenetrable barrier that glass presents and their quick flight ends abruptly on its surface. The impact often results in the death of the bird, and the victims comprise many different species. They are especially at risk during spring and fall migrations.
Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, is working with the local community and experts from American Bird Conservancy, using state-of-the-art solutions to keep birds from dying in collisions with those glass walls and windows.
What prompted Northwestern’s decision to explore a solution to these bird impacts? The university’s location along the shores of Lake Michigan puts it squarely in the path of millions of migrating birds. These historic travel lanes are now filled with buildings and obstacles sporting these glass hazards that increase the mortality rate beyond what nature intends.
Annette Prince, director of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (www.birdmonitors.net), says that 5,000 birds a year are injured or killed by collisions in one square mile of downtown Chicago alone. The birds include 170 species, from wood thrush and many species of warblers to larger birds like bitterns.
“The things we find sometimes are astounding,” Prince said. “We got a painted bunting one year. Even waterfowl can be impacted.”
“We’re taking an active, multitiered approach to bird collisions, looking at new construction, existing structures, and at the daily building-management level,” said Bonnie L. Humphrey, director of design in Northwestern’s facilities division.
Some of the adopted solutions include applying patterned window film to problematic existing windows and choosing glass with patterns visible to birds in some new construction projects.
“Northwestern is setting a powerful example that we’d like to see other universities follow. Ideally, you treat a whole building. If you can’t do that, you can at least treat the most dangerous areas,” Prince said.
The measures put Northwestern in the vanguard of a growing movement among U.S. colleges and universities to implement practical, effective and cost-efficient strategies to reduce bird strikes, which kill up to 1 billion birds a year in the U.S. I like to think that the Big Ten is once again leading the way.
If you would like to reduce the number of birds bouncing off your windows, there are several companies that can help. An internet search will find ABC BirdTape, Window Alert, Feather Friendly, AviProtek, Ornilux and others. Visit www.birdmonitors.net to learn more about bird strikes, prevention and companies who make bird-friendly products.
“Like the resource it seeks to protect, wildlife conservation must be dynamic, changing as conditions change, seeking always to become more effective.” — Rachel Carson
Along the way:
Are you a birder, wildlife watcher or a walking enthusiast? Maybe you’d like to get a chance to explore parts of an Ohio wildlife refuge that is generally off limits to casual visitors. The Hike the Dikes program might be the perfect opportunity for you.
The Hike the Dikes program is free and open to all ages and interest levels, providing opportunities to explore the natural wonders of Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge along Lake Erie. All walks are led by a trained and knowledgeable guide. Participants will learn about local birds, reptiles and amphibians, butterflies and marsh mammals, wetland plants and more.
The programs are held in partnership between the Division of Wildlife; Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Black Swamp Bird Observatory. Hikes take place the second Saturday of each month, April through September.
This year’s dates are April 14, May 12, June 9, July 14, Aug. 11 and Sept. 8. Each walk is hosted by one of the partner agencies.
Hikes begin at 9 a.m. and usually last one to two hours, depending on the weather. April’s hike will meet at the Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, located at 13229 Ohio 2 W, Oak Harbor 43449.
All other hikes will meet at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center, located at 14000 Ohio 2 W, Oak Harbor 43449.
Anyone who attends three or more Hike the Dike walks will receive a free hiking stick. For more information, call Magee Marsh Wildlife Area at 419-898-0960, ext. 21, or Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge at 419-898-0014.
Some items that could come in handy include binoculars, camera, sketchbook or notebook.
• Tomorrow: Trap shoot, 1 p.m., Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186.
• Thursday and Friday: Trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
• Thursday: Second annual Ohio Student Wildlife Research Symposium, Lucas County. Learn more about the wildlife-related research that is taking place in high schools around Ohio in a professional and supportive environment. Registration is open online at https://eeco.wildapricot.org/event-2819287.
• Thursday: The Statewide Fish and Game Hearing on the 2018-2019 hunting season proposals. The hearing will be held at the Division of Wildlife’s District One office, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, at 9 a.m.
• Thursday to Sunday, April 15: Fifty-first annual conference, Environmental Education Council of Ohio, Maumee Bay State Park Lodge. Keynote speaker is John Huston, focusing on his work to introduce nature to a population of at-risk youth. Friday night features historical re-enactment, and Saturday features educational field trips to Howard Marsh, National Museum of the Great Lakes, Toledo Botanical Gardens and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Graduate credit is available through Ashland University. Online registration closes April 9. For information and registration: https://eeco.wildapricot.org/event-2804347.
• Friday: Last day to sign up to compete in the Rossford Walleye Roundup Tournament and Festival. Hosted by Rossford Convention and Visitors Bureau and Bass Pro Shops, the event is open to all two-person teams. Registration fee is $500 per team. Payouts are based on the number of entries. Registration deadline is April 13. For updates, official rules, and registration information and special hotel packages, go to RossfordWalleyeRoundup.com or call the Rossford Convention and Visitors Bureau at 855-765-5451. Did I mention that you would be competing for a prize purse of $20,000?
• April 15: Bass fishing seminar, 6 p.m., University of Findlay’s Endly Room, northeast corner of the Alumni Memorial Union. The event includes a PowerPoint presentation, lure rigging and cast retrieval in the UF pool. The seminar will be taught by Weston Young, Findlay Bass Team president, as well as other team members. It’s a great opportunity to increase your fishing know-how and to meet other anglers. The cost is $10, and those interested can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
• April 21: Pheasants Forever banquet, Community Building at the Hardin County Fairgrounds. If already a Pheasants Forever member, the event ticket is $20; if not, the price is $55. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Water, coffee and pop will be provided but you are welcome to bring along a cooler with your favorite adult beverage. For tickets, contact Tom Kier at 419-634-0824.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay.