Over 1,000 Birds Perish After Striking a Singular Chicago Building

Around 1,000 birds tragically lost their lives after striking McCormick Place in Chicago, a structure largely composed of glass, posing significant challenges for migrating avian populations.

Quick Facts

  • McCormick Place: The largest convention center in North America, this building’s glass exterior is a significant hazard for birds, leading to many fatalities.
  • Chicago’s Dilemma: The city’s pronounced light pollution significantly endangers migrating birds. Deactivating lights in buildings can notably diminish these incidents.
  • Existing Solutions: Beyond new construction, many current buildings pose threats to birds. However, through retrofit investments, tax incentives, and bird-friendly windows, these challenges can be economically addressed.

On Thursday, 5th October, the tragedy unfolded as around 1,000 birds collided with McCormick Place during their southern migration towards winter territories. This massive structure, primarily made of glass, presents an alarming risk to avian species, with volunteers still discovering bird remains up to 1.5 miles from the site. Annette Prince, director of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, conveyed the gravity of this incident, noting it as the highest recorded bird collisions for a single structure in one day.

Such catastrophic events aren’t random or isolated. Birds often face such perils, especially during peak migration in spring and autumn. Adverse weather conditions—such as opposing winds, rain, and fog—can disorient them. Additionally, the urban light pollution, particularly prominent in Chicago, attracts and traps them among perilous man-made structures. The implications are broader than the immediate tragedy. Birds play a pivotal role in ecosystems, from dispersing seeds post-wildfires, assisting in forest regeneration, to controlling insect populations exacerbated by global temperature rises.

Chicago, unfortunately, stands at the crossroads of this crisis due to its light pollution, which poses severe risks to migrating birds. A study conducted in 2021 at McCormick Place discovered that simply turning off half of a building’s lights can decrease bird collisions six to elevenfold. While the center is part of the Lights Out Chicago initiative, which recommends buildings switch off or dim their lights, ongoing events at Lakeside Center, a McCormick Place section, necessitated lights remaining on. Addressing these challenges demands more than isolated efforts. Chicago has taken steps forward, approving a bird-friendly design ordinance and the Bird Safe Buildings Act, targeting state-owned constructions. Yet, as Brendon Samuels noted, the real challenge lies in retrofitting existing structures to be more bird-friendly, underscoring the urgent need for policy implementation.

For Further ReadingLight Pollution: Light pollution refers to the excessive, misdirected, or obtrusive artificial light produced by human activities. It not only has adverse effects on human health and astronomical research but poses significant threats to wildlife, especially birds. By confusing migratory patterns, it can lead birds astray, causing exhaustion, disorientation, and collisions. Addressing light pollution through smarter lighting solutions can help protect biodiversity. [Wikipedia]


Why are birds colliding with buildings?

Buildings, especially those with extensive glass facades, can reflect the sky or vegetation, misleading birds and causing them to fly directly into them. Nighttime lighting in buildings can also disorient birds, especially during their migration periods.How can such collisions be reduced?

By turning off unnecessary lights in buildings, especially during peak migration seasons, and retrofitting windows to be more bird-friendly, such collisions can be substantially reduced.What role does light pollution play in this crisis?

Light pollution, caused by excessive or misdirected artificial light, can confuse and attract birds, especially during their nocturnal migrations, leading them into urban areas where they are more likely to collide with buildings.

Original Article Source: The Guardian

Leave a Comment