By Sam Allard
Published April 4, 2023

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

We’re entering the heart of spring migration season, when millions of birds travel north for feeding and breeding.

Driving the news: Cleveland is an important pit stop, as species recharge and refuel before the aerial trek across Lake Erie.

  • That makes Northeast Ohio both a mecca for birdwatching and a disaster area for bird collisions, according to the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative.

Why it matters: Roughly half a billion birds die each year crashing into buildings in North America.

  • Birds are especially vulnerable in Cleveland, where “glass curtain” facades on downtown buildings and shiny new construction on university and medical campuses wreak havoc at night, when most birds migrate.

By the numbers: Volunteers with the statewide Ohio Lights Out network walk routes each morning to look for dead and injured birds during the migration season, from late February to mid-June.

  • In Columbus, volunteers typically collect about 500 birds per year. In Cleveland, it’s closer to 5,000.

What they’re saying: “Cleveland is a very bright city,” Matthew Shumar, program coordinator for the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative, tells Axios.

  • “And its buildings are often adjacent to greenspace. The conditions are just right to cause a higher number of collisions.”

Between the lines: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, which reopened with its glass facade in 2019, is one of the city’s highest-incidence locations.

  • Shumar says the Bird Conservation Initiative is working with the facility management team on mitigation strategies.
  • “They’ve been great partners,” Shumar says. “Glass treatments can be very expensive, so they’re experimenting with some interior lighting to break up the reflective glass.”

What’s next: Ohio Lights Out is recruiting volunteers, Shumar says. To cover the four downtown Cleveland routes, they’d ideally have 16 volunteers daily, but usually have only four to 10 people.

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Cleveland is a bird collision hot spot