By Alissa Widman Neese
Published March 27, 2023
This month marks the start of the spring migration season, when millions of songbirds travel through Central Ohio.
- Unfortunately, many won’t reach their destinations because they’ll collide with buildings — a deadly problem a group of volunteers wants to help solve.
Why it matters: It’s estimated that between 365 and 988 million birds die each year in the U.S. from building strikes, a leading cause of mortality.
What’s happening: Every morning through May, about 45 volunteers with Lights Out Columbus will patrol downtown, searching for injured birds that fall to the ground below.
- The local effort is part of a nationwide movement in large cities to rescue birds that survive and learn from the ones that don’t.
Threat level: As the group’s name implies, light pollution from towering skyscrapers can disrupt migration. For years, advocates have urged businesses to turn lights off after-hours to help.
- But a building covered in windows and shiny glass is an even bigger threat, especially if green space is nearby, Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative program coordinator Matthew Shumar tells Axios.
The intrigue: The first few floors are deadliest. Confused birds think they’re flying toward trees when they see reflections — until they crash into glass, typically around sunrise.
What they’ve found: Since spring 2019, Lights Out Columbus has recovered about 500 total birds annually from spring and fall migration, Shumar says.
- Live birds go to the Ohio Wildlife Center for rehabilitation and, ideally, release.
- Dead birds — sadly, about 80% — are catalogued for research at Ohio State’s Museum of Biological Diversity.
What’s next: The goal is to build a database to inform conversations with businesses and elected officials about solutions.
- Glass can be retrofitted with adhesive films that break up reflections, and bird-safe glass is an option for new construction, though cost and aesthetic can be deterrents.
💭 Alissa’s thought bubble: I tagged along with the self-proclaimed “bird people” last Wednesday — at 6am, well before I’m usually awake! I admire their dedication.
- We luckily didn’t find any downed birds, but did watch a sparrow thud into an illuminated window, illustrating the problem. It flew away, hopefully unharmed.
🐦 Want to volunteer? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Current shifts are 6-7:30am and 7:30-9am and span 3 1/2 miles, in the Arena District and on Broad Street near the Ohio Statehouse.
- Adding 20-30 volunteers could shorten routes or add another near the Main Library.
This article was originally published on Axios.com: https://www.axios.com/local/columbus/2023/03/27/lights-out-migrating-birds-downtown-columbus-ohio