By Chris M. Worrell
Published: September 02, 2019

Seasonal naturalist SaraJane Kukawka describes efforts to reduce window collisions at Cleveland Metroparks facilities. (Chris Worrell, special to

NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio — A crowded classroom greeted SaraJane Kukawka, seasonal naturalist at the Rocky River Nature Center, on Sunday afternoon as she educated visitors about methods for lowering migratory bird losses from collisions with buildings.

“We’re not shaming any of the buildings and we’re not trying to draw attention to whose fault it is,” said Kukawka.

She emphasized practical solutions that are both aesthetically pleasing and low maintenance. Because reducing illumination is a key part of the Ohio Lights Out program to lower collisions, participants may also benefit from lower utility bills.

Regarding Cleveland’s urban, lakefront geography and bird strikes, Kukawka remarked, “Yes, it happens here and yes, we’re in control.”

The Lights Out initiative focuses specifically on the ways in which illumination impacts migratory species. Kukawka explained that many migrant birds travel at night due to reduced predation and the natural proclivity for birds to use stars as navigational guides.

Estimated death tolls from collisions with buildings range as high as a billion birds annually.

Large buildings in urban settings are not solely to blame for collisions. The majority of those attending Sunday’s program were homeowners interested in reducing window strikes. Birds often misinterpret windows as open areas and may even believe that reflections are a part of their natural habitat. The overall goal is to ensure that windows do not mimic the reality birds perceive.

Kukawka emphasized the “4-inch rule.” Dividing reflective surfaces into geometrical shapes of no more than four inches can help birds distinguish windows from natural surfaces. Window treatments are available for purchase, although inexpensive solutions include tape, mesh, non-permanent paint, soap markings, screen windows and decals.

Kukawka also recommends keeping feeders and birdbaths away from windows and other reflective surfaces.

Homeowners, like owners of large urban structures, can reduce migratory bird collisions by dimming lights, drawing shades and closing blinds and curtains during migration periods. According to Ohio Lights Out, those periods are from midnight to dawn Aug. 15 through Oct. 31 and March 15 through June 1.

Although many in Northeast Ohio may never see a dead or injured bird outside their home or office window, a strike may still have occurred during the overnight hours. Hungry predators and maintenance personnel scoop up many birds well prior to dawn.

When birds do collide with windows, homeowners can turn to a number of resources. The Lake Erie Nature & Science Center in Bay Village and Penitentiary Glen in Kirtland both have rehabilitation facilities. Rocky River Nature Center and other Cleveland Metroparks units can answer questions and direct Good Samaritans to resources.

Prior to handling injured birds, nature lovers should be familiar with care procedures and understand that birds that appear to be injured may simply be fledging or experiencing other stages of the natural life cycle.

Lights Out Cleveland often needs volunteers. Although the position can help with bird identification skills, it also entails early mornings, bending and plenty of walking. Volunteers can also assist at rehabilitation centers and in various other ways.

A number of other Ohio cities have Lights Out programs. Curious citizens can also track migration in real time by checking Cornell University’s BirdCast mapping program.

The original article was published on

Cleveland Metroparks partners with Ohio Lights Out to promote bird-friendly buildings