Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Sprague's pipit succumbs to one of the underestimated perils of migration

photo by Tim O'Connell

Habitat loss may be responsible for most bird decline, but for direct and immediate kill, nothing compares to glass windows. This Sprague's pipit was trying to make its way north to some of the last habitat remaining on the northern plains and would have arrived here in the next few weeks to begin the breeding season. Instead, it ran into a window in Oklahoma.

Last week, on March 23, at the Noble Research Center on the campus of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Daniele Benson walked around the building to see if any birds had been killed by the large windows at the Center. She was helping out Dr. Tim O’Connell, on the faculty of the Dept. of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, who has been monitoring the building's bird kills for several months now and writing a blog about it, reporting on the casualties.

His blog posting for March 23 shows the image of the Sprague's pipit shown above and tells the story of Danielle finding it. In the intro to his blog, "Avian Window Kills," O'Connell says “it is estimated that as many as 1 billion birds die from striking windows every year in the United States. (For more information, see this report on Dr. Dan Klem’s work here.) This is more than die by cat predation, oil spills, acid rain, tower collisions, pesticides –you name it. In addition, the victims very often include fit, healthy individuals in the prime of life. These are not young birds, recently out of the nest and foolishly falling prey to a neighborhood cat.

Why the blog? We don’t talk about this issue nearly enough. Migrants face enough hazards without smacking into our windows while in the midst of a 3000-mile passage. Green certifications on new buildings and renovations need to consider bird-safe glass; designers need to understand situations of lighting and sight line that make a particular design especially deadly. We begin by acknowledging the problem.”

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