Deadly, but avoidable, avian collisions above

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Visitors to the Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St., may have noticed the black silhouette cutouts of birds in the windows of the second and third floors on the east side of the building.

Those patterns aren't mere decoration, but rather an effort by library staff to lessen a pervasive threat to birds in the area, according to library Deputy Director Jim Madigan.

Madigan said that, in the first few years after the library opened, birds flying into the windows of the building were a daily occurrence.

Library staff would find dead and injured birds around the library almost every day for the first couple of years, according to Madigan.

Staff took a closer look to find out why it was happening and learned about the problem with birds, particularly those migrating in the spring and fall, flying into windows. 

"We did an extensive study and put the images of the birds of prey on the windows on the east of the building," Madigan said. 

That reduced the number of bird strikes substantially, but library staff is continuing in its effort to get that number as close to zero as possible.

Erin Daughton, who serves on the Oak Park Environment & Energy Commission (EEC), said the commission is working to develop a plan to educate other building managers about the potential impact tall structures have on birds.

She told Wednesday Journal that Illinois is among the states along the Mississippi Flyway, a migration route for millions of birds every year that runs from central Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Tens of thousands of birds are killed in the Chicago area alone because of flying into buildings, said Daughton, who used to work in the River North area of Chicago and began seeing the casualties all around downtown.

"Once you start noticing them … you just see injured birds all over the place," she said.

The EEC has made education on the issue a part of its 2017 work plan, Daughton said. "The goal was to present to the [Oak Park Board of Trustees] at some point this year."

That effort includes distribution of information about strategies for making windows more visible to birds and preventing nighttime collisions.

"At night, migrants [including most songbirds] fly into lighted windows," reads an informational pamphlet Daughton's been distributing to building managers and owners. "For reasons not well understood, lighted windows attract nocturnal migrants, diverting them from their original path."

She said the bird strikes in Chicago prompted the city to launch its Lights Out Chicago program in 1995, which encourages owners of tall buildings to turn off or dim their decorative lights from 11 p.m. to sunrise during migratory seasons, which run from mid-March to early June and late August to mid-November. The city claims the program saves 10,000 bird lives a year.

More information about the Lights Out Chicago program is available by contacting the Chicago Audubon Society. The city recommends using timers for lighting, installing motion-sensitive lighting and using low-intensity lighting when possible.

Using desk lamps in place of interior overhead lighting, scheduling cleaning crews to work during bright hours of the day and drawing curtains to reduce light exposure also can prevent bird strikes, according to the city.

Madigan said Oak Park Public Library only recently began pulling darkened shades over the windows of the library to prevent them from attracting birds.

The library recently was visited by Daughton, who is working with building owners to pass along the message of migratory bird strikes, but it was a local birder who suggested pulling the shades, Madigan said.

"Speaking with Erin made us not want to rest on [just] putting decals up," said Madigan, who recently learned of a specialty glass that can be used on tall buildings that includes an embedded material that deters birds in flight. 

"It does not restrict human sight or light, but birds pick up on it and want to avoid it," Madigan said. "It's not necessarily an idea for a building that already exists, but for buildings that are going to go up."

Daughton said building owners can prevent bird strikes by making windows visible to birds in other ways, including:

Applying tempura paint or soap in a grid pattern on windows.

Placing stickers, sun catchers, Mylar strips, masking tape, sticky notes or other material in windows. "Keep in mind that these are only effective when spaced very closely," she noted in the pamphlet.

Installation of Acopian BirdSavers, closely spaced ropes that hang in front of the windows.

Installation of mosquito screens over windows.

Installation of netting at least 3 inches from the glass that is taut enough to repel birds before they hit.

Installation of one-way transparent film such as Collidescape, which allows those on the inside to see out but prevents those on the outside from seeing in.


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Marlene Russum Scott from Oak Park  

Posted: August 23rd, 2017 12:31 PM

The first time that I noticed how beautiful the clouds looked reflected in the windows of The Emerson on Lake St, wondered about migrating birds.

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