This could have easily been prevented.
Last Thursday morning, police officer Josh Henderson received an odd phone call. Reportedly, close to four hundred birds had been found dead, scattered around a city building in Galveston, Texas. Upon arriving at the scene, Henderson was shocked to witness mounds of birds’ bodies piled on top of each other.
Recalling the incident, officer Henderson said:
“It was absolutely a tragedy. I was remarkably surprised that there were quite that many. It was really beyond imagination for me to pull out 395 dead birds.”
Of the 395 birds that had fallen to the ground during the night, only three survived – two stunned magnolia warblers and one Nashville warbler, reports The Dodo. All were transported to the Wildlife Center of Texas for treatment.
What had happened? According to Sarah Flournoy, the program manager for Houston Audubon, a conservation organization in Texas, the birds had died because the building had its lights on all night.
“The lights from buildings cause disorientation,” Flournoy said. “This is a fairly common threat to birds, so what we recommend is that building owners turn off the lights at night, particularly during migration.”
Most likely, the birds were attracted to the building because of the lights. Slamming into the glass windows is what ultimately killed them, however. Flournoy also added that the brewing storm could have added to their disorientation. Most often, window collisions happen during the day. In fact, close to one billion birds die after crashing into windows each year in the U.S. However, window night collisions are not as common.
There are a few ways activists can prevent similar mass bird deaths from occurring. For one, tenants can remember to shut their lights off in the evening. Additionally, they can install shutters or curtain capable of blocking out most of the light, which will prevent birds from flying into the windows. Finally, people can add decals to windows’ hard surfaces to stop birds from trying to fly through them.
Most of the 395 birds that were discovered were varying kinds of warblers. However, there were also bunting, orioles, grosbeaks, tanagers and a few other species. All had been migrating, said Flournoy, and they were probably flying from Central or South America back to their nesting grounds.
“What we’re trying to get people to understand is that it isn’t one particular building,” Flournoy explained. “This is something that the community needs to come together and work on. It’s more of a widespread challenge. It’s our hope that … [this incident] will create awareness of the problem, and how to generate a great solution.”
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