By Katie Ussin
Published March 4, 2024

Red-winged blackbirds are back in Northeast Ohio. It means more bird species will soon follow for spring migration, a significant event for our region.

We know bird watching is a popular pastime for many, so it is why we are following through on our previous reports about preventing bird strikes in Cleveland.

“We use a variety of seeds,” said Jake Kudrna, a naturalist at Cleveland MetroParks, as he put out bird feeders at the Watershed Stewardship Center in Parma. “Like black oil sunflower seed.”

Kudrna is also the volunteer coordinator for Lights Out Cleveland, part of the larger statewide project, Lights Out Ohio.

Kudrna says it’s impactful volunteer work.

“From my perspective, it is a physical and sometimes emotional program to be involved in,” said Kudrna.

Lights Out Cleveland rescues birds that have hit buildings during the spring and fall migration seasons.

Late last year, we showed you how the injured birds are brought to the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center for Rehabilitation, where they can treat thousands of rescued birds annually. The goal is to release them back into nature.

It is a meaningful and beautiful experience to see the once-injured birds released. Most are tiny songbirds. The Lake Erie Nature & Science Center volunteers are also part of the release. They say it’s a sentimental full-circle moment.

Now, News 5 is following through with the call for volunteers. Lights Out Cleveland is recruiting right now. Kudrna says it is important work they can only do with volunteers.

He says they have about 80 volunteers currently and are hoping to recruit dozens more.

“We ask that they commit to at least once a week,” said Kudrna. “Ideally, three to four times a month.”

For spring migration, Lights Out Cleveland volunteers head out every morning from March 15 through June 15, between sunrise and 8:30 a.m., to walk several miles of Downtown routes. The volunteers aren’t just collecting fallen flyers but also data on where, when, and what kind of bird was found.

“Collecting data that can be used to make informed decisions to reduce the number of strikes is the goal,” said Kudrna. “We want to save birds, but we also want to reduce the number of birds that need saving.”

Cleveland’s spot on Lake Erie uniquely positions the city as a refueling ground for migrating birds heading north to their breeding grounds in the spring and south in the fall.

Hence, the project’s name, reducing light pollution during peak migration, is one way to help reduce bird strikes.

“All the lights send out an aura from the city; it does draw birds in,” said Kudrna.

He says collisions mainly involve the first few floors of a building and occur upon takeoff and landing.

Bird-safe glass can also help prevent strikes.

“Most of the time, you don’t even realize that they’re there,” he said, pointing to a bunch of little white does in a grid pattern affixed to the windows at the Watershed Stewardship Center.

They help the birds see that the glass is a barrier instead of a continuation of their habitat.

Landscaping can make a difference, too.

Kudrna says awareness is crucial, and so are dedicated volunteers to help our feathered friends.

“Since the 1970s, we’ve lost an estimated 3 billion birds,” said Kudrna. “There are various reasons for that, but any little bit we can do to help.”

If you’re interested in being a Lights Out Cleveland volunteer, you can learn more during training and introduction to the program on March 7 from 6 to 7.30 p.m. at the Watershed Stewardship Center in Parma at the West Creek Reservation. CLICK HERE for more information.

This article was originally published on News 5 Cleveland:

Lights Out Cleveland recruiting volunteers right now for spring bird migration