World Migratory Bird Day: Migratory Bird Strikes

Migratory bird strikes are the cause of death for 1 billion migratory birds in North America every year.

Published May 11, 2018

As the National Aquarium recognizes World Migratory Bird Day with a series of events throughout our building, it’s also a time for us to bring attention to a threat to migratory birds every spring and fall–migratory bird strikes.

Ovenbird sitting on a branch 

Birds that live in the Northern Hemisphere migrate each change of season, mostly during the months of April and May, and from mid-August to mid-November, in search of areas offering more abundant nesting and food options. While many may think bird migration occurs in rural areas exclusively, migratory bird strikes often occur in major cities like Baltimore.

Birds migrate during the nighttime by way of the moon and stars, and roost overnight in trees. As the sun rises, they fly from tree to tree. When doing so, many birds are attracted to the reflection of trees on the outside of glass buildings or see vegetation inside the building. The confused birds fly toward and collide with the buildings. It’s a common misconception that tall skyscrapers are the main culprit of bird strikes—the first 30 to 40 feet from the ground up are the most dangerous, since that’s typically where the tree line is.

Each year, about 450 migratory birds die in Baltimore, mostly species including the white throated sparrow, ovenbird, black and white warblers and Virginia rails.

So, what can businesses and individuals do to help?

Volunteer organization Lights Out Baltimore recommends buildings turn off all non-essential lights at night to reduce confusing white and yellow lights birds are attracted to, and change exterior lighting to cooler colors.

If homeowners have trees across from their windows, they should move bird feeders 5 feet or closer to the window. This reduces the amount of space a bird has to gain momentum if it flies toward the window.

If you see a stunned bird on the ground, call Lights Out Baltimore.

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