By Carl Batchel
Published on May 3, 2017

Cemeteries are places people find their final rest.

For birds, these green spaces in cities can save their lives.

Birders have long known these gardens of stone attract migrating birds, and in downtown Cleveland, it’s no different.

Birder Ron Greene is visiting Erie Street Cemetery, looking for rarities. “I came in from Chesterland, looking for a yellow breasted chat.”

He found it. And a Brown Thrasher. And a Northern Waterthrush. And an American Redstart.

There are birds everywhere, and that’s problematic. You see, they fly at night during migration, and if they get near a city like Cleveland, there’s trouble.

“Somewhere between 388 million and a billion birds in the United States die each year due to window strikes,” says Tim Jasinski, wildlife rehab specialist for the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center.

So he and a group of volunteers are researching the impact in Cleveland.

“Yesterday, we went downtown and in front of three buildings, we found fifteen live birds and twenty dead ones”. Tim says it didn’t take long to collect them. “There were nine birds, both live and dead, in front of one window.” 14 of the birds were taken to the rehab facility and released. One, a white throated sparrow, is under observation. There’s no telling what they will find on any given morning. Jasinski went on, “Black and white warblers, ovenbirds, catbirds, and even owls… It’s horrible.”

There is hope, and it’s an easy fix. Turn out the lights. It’s believed that birds use the moon and stars to navigate during their long migrations. Lights in tall buildings throw them off course. They fly towards the lights and get confused by all the reflections. It’s just a matter of time before many hit a window. Not many make it, but people like Tim are trying to make a difference.

For more information on bird window strikes, check out the Ohio Lights Out webpage. It’s a movement in Ohio cities to reduce bird deaths by going dark during migration.

The original article was published on WKYC News:

WKYC posts news piece on Lights Out Cleveland