25 September 2008

River Critters Enhance Plaza of Pedestrian Bridge at Omaha

River critters that depict endangered and threatened species of the Missouri River valley are an educational feature included at the newly dedicated pedestrian bridge at the Omaha riverfront.

The objects are at a plaza at the west end of the bridge, and the primary features of a "child play area."

"We wanted a destination plaza that families could enjoy, again and again," said Steve Scarpello, director of Omaha Parks and Recreation Department. "This will be a place for people to sit and enjoy the bridge."

The stone facsimile of the Pallid Sturgeon and Piping Plover were created by Andy Dufford, of Chevos Studios in Denver, at a cost of $190,000, which includes three two-foot-in-diameter boulders depicting eggs of the Least Tern.

[Stone Piping Plover at the Omaha riverfront.]

A stone version of a Piping Plover at the plaza of the pedestrian bridge at the Omaha riverfront.

[Stone Pallid Sturgeon at the Omaha riverfront.]

A stone version of a Pallid Sturgeon.

"The artist worked to get species to look as close as possible to the actual species," said Carol McBryant, the chief of interpretation for the Lewis and Clark trail, National Park Service. "We worked together on how to present the material, and how it might be more interactive than typically, to make it more tactile and allow people to get involved with the species."

There is also a large rock, in which two examples of the river channel - former and present - are etched. Water can be added to a reservoir at one end, and it will go through the channels to show the difference in flows, said Pat Slaven, a planner with the department. Water jets placed under the chin of the sturgeon are also part of the features children can play with. [View of the pedestrian bridge from the Omaha riverfront.]

Another artistic feature of the plaza is the art piece "Fiber Wave," created by Makoto Sei Watanabe, from Japan. This object is a group of carbon fiber rods about twelve feet tall that will wave with the winds. The only other similar work is in Chicago, Scarpello said.

Other educational material at the pedestrian bridge will be signage with information on the life cycles of the three threatened and endangered species, the Indian perspective of the Missouri valley, history and changes of the river, and mitigation efforts, said McBryant. This signage will be placed at the "bumpouts" along the bridge sometime in November.

Some of the information to be placed at either end of the bridge, was required by the Fish and Wildlife Service as mitigation efforts from issues involving listed species, which also included the Bald Eagle.

Plantings of native grasses - mainly switchgrass - and native flowers at the plaza on the west side of the bridge, will complement the adjacent garden that is well-established at the National Park Service building. This garden includes a variety of grasses and forbs designed to help the building achieve LEED certification, ponds to retain storm-water runoff, according to McBryant. There is also a tepee, representing the Lewis and Clark era, and used for educational purposes. Other signage tells about the journey of discovery along the historic river.

Although the bridge will officially open on September 29th, the river critter area will open later, once grass and turf irrigation is installed, Scarpello said.

Overall, the cost of the plaza has been $1.8 million, all which was provided by private donations. It is expected to be officially dedicated in the spring.

"We needed something special at the bridge," Scarpello said. Private contributors "provided something the people of the city can be proud of."

22 September 2008

Birds Adorn Gard at Intertribal Wacipi at Fort Omaha

Garb adorned with bird objects of a typical yet distinct sort was prominent regalia for dancers at an intertribal pow-wow at the historic Fort Omaha parade grounds.

The pow-wow was hosted by the Omaha Tribe, native to this region of the Missouri River valley.

Wacipi at the historic Fort Omaha parade grounds on Saturday, September 20th.

Sylphian skies over Fort Omaha.

During dance after dance, carried by the steady drum sound, the regalia of the men had the standard objects. Each in the Young Buck dance had a feather bustle of a small or grand sized bunch of feathers on the backside, in a length that varied.

They had an eagle wing fan, and some carried a durable wooden staff decorated with dangling feathers, and one with raptor talons on the top.

The winner of the Young Buck dance – for all men - had a bustle with two rows of eagle feathers the outer row black, while the inner row, was a shorter bunch, white tipped with black. A set of distinctive feathers yellow tipped with black - the mark of the northern flicker – dangled from his headband, along with a small beaded dreamcatcher. a thunderbird was the prominent motif on his vest. He added sounds from his flute for the grand circle around the dance area, receiving accolades for his presentation of the heritage of the people.

Winner of the men's Fancy Dance, showing his skills at Fort Omaha.

Decorated outfits of two tribal elders, waiting to dance.

The Golden Eagle was the most prominent species featured. A ceremonial staff several feet tall at the announcer’s booth - adorned with the carefully tended head and nape, below which hung a dream-catcher and more eagle feathers - was kept in prominent display for the duration of the wacipi dances.

It was a grand day for an outdoor ceremony on the lawn of the central parade grounds at the fort, surrounded by a ring of trees, on an 80o day with some sylphish clouds.

People at the pow-wow.

First of the competitions was to select a new Princess, another young woman to represent the people’s tribe. Then a women’s jingle dance, and the women’s traditional dance with 30 women participating.

The birdly adornment was on prominent display for the men’s fancy dancers. Their moves and antics bold and quick, like a warrior. An outfit of dramatic orange was sprouting with feathery decorating for the single man in one of the dances. Mammal skins were also worn by a few.

Six drum groups were present, with turns taken for each bunch of about 6 men actively working the sticks banging at the big, tight-skin instruments beating as the heart of those gathered. There were several opportunities for everyone to join in with the dancing.

“We’re all native to this earth – everybody come and dance,” the event announcer said.

The people celebrated again, their tribal traditions.

For the Grass Dance, about 15 prepared participants moved to the steady sound rolling across the fort grounds. The people celebrated again, the tribal traditions for the people on the plains.

We are having a thrill from “people participating in our ways,” a tribal elder said in a recognition during the afternoon.

The women’s apparel had its own unique accessories, but this meant more jingles, turtle motif’s for the beadwork, colorful fabrics carefully sewn, and perhaps a single feather carefully worn. Many carried a wing fan during their performance, and the Princess candidates also had theirs.

Each dancer typically wore bells of various sorts on their ankles. It was a classic scene in the Indian way on the earth.

Each of the men had a head ornament. The feathered head-dress was – as it usually can be – distinctive with long wing and tail feathers presented in various ways, from the single row down the middle, or a few dangling towards the back. Some of the feathers had been colored to green, orange or yellow.

Among the appreciative crowd, when the dancer took a pause, adornments were carefully handled and prominently placed. An eagle feather bustle was carefully hung from the back of a chair. One man, held on his lap a short staff topped also with an eagle head, the piercing eyes and opened, raptorial beak still conveying the spirit of the winged ones, an essential feature of the day’s ceremony.

Ten years after its origins, 1878 Fort Omaha became headquarters for the Department of the Platte, hosting many a gathering of the native peoples of the distant lands, traveling to deal with the government.

“The historic parade ground and exteriors of brick buildings cannot be altered,” according to historians. The fort is now a Metropolitan Community College Campus.

A pow-wow for the Omaha Tribe is held annually, this year having the requisite booths, with edibles, crafts and trinkets to buy. There was also story telling, and a display of tribal pictures. Dance winners received gifts and a cash award. There several hundred people present.

A unique display of critters on the hood of a car at Fort Omaha on pow-wow day. There is also a dream-catcher visible behind the wind-shield.

20 September 2008

Federal Program Awards $26 Million for Wetland Conservation

More than $26 million has been awarded from a federal program for projects to protect and restore about 165,000 acres of wetlands in the United States. Project partners are providing an additional $86 million in matching funds, and $23.3 million in nonmatching funds.

The spending recently approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission is for 27 projects through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

"The grants were awarded under NAWCA’s U.S. Standard Grants Program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," according to an agency news release. "Partners in these projects will contribute an additional $86 million in matching funds to help support these conservation effects. The grants are funded by annual Congressional appropriations; fines, penalties and forfeitures levied under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; interest accrued on funds under the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act and excise taxes paid on small engine fuels through the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Fund."

Examples of pending projects include:

Colorado: San Luis Valley Rio Grande Initiative; received a grant of $1 million, with matching funds of $2.1 million to "protect 25,000 acres of riparian corridor along the Rio Grande River at its headwaters in Colorado."
Iowa: Iowa River Corridor Wetland Initiative; received a grant of $1 million, with matching funds of $2.9 million, and another $1 million in nonmatching funds to "enhance three large wetland complexes and three river floodplain corridor areas."
Massachusetts: the Great Marsh, in Essex County; received a grant of $1 million, with matching funds of $1.8 million, and nonmatching funds of $2 million to "secure and restore habitat for more than 70 species of waterfowl, waterbirds and shorebirds, as well as an additional 90 species of birds that use the diverse habitat types in this area."

Further information on the location of each project, the amount received, partners and project details is available at the NAWCA website.

A great variety of partners involved with these projects include Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service, local cities and towns, energy companies, state conservation agencies, local land trusts, foundations, and private landowners. Partners provide matching funds.

The Commission approved an additional $4.1 million to add more than 4,400 acres to seven national wildlife refuges. The wildlife refuges that will acquire wetland habitat for migratory birds and other flora and fauna, include:

  • Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in St. Bernard and Orleans Parishes, Louisiana – acquire 2,027 acres of wetland habitat.
  • Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, Georgetown, Marion and Horry Counties, South Carolina – acquire 1,292 acres, primarily for American Black Duck habitat. Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, Seneca County, New York – acquire 64 acres of waterfowl habitat.
  • In New Hampshire, the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, Mohawk River – acquire 108 acres; Pondicherry Divisions, Coos County, acquire 105 acres. The American Black Duck is also the focus of these two projects.
  • Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, Liberty County, Texas – acquire 924 acres of wetland habitats to benefit migratory, wintering, and breeding waterfowl.
  • Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, Jackson, Prairie, Woodruff and Monroe Counties, Arkansas – acquire 24 acres of areas used as waterfowl habitat in the winter.
  • Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Wapato Lake Unit, Washington and Yamhill Counties, Oregon – acquire 15 acres to manage for the Tundra Swan.

The one billionth dollar from the NAWCA program was recently expended. The funds were used to purchase a 133-acre permanent conservation easement on private grasslands in Campbell County, north-central South Dakota.

"At this milestone, we mark a major bird conservation achievement, and we acknowledge the tremendous challenges that climate change and crop conversion pose for the long-term productivity of the Prairie Pothole Region and other nationally-significant migratory bird habitat," said Stephen Guertin, Regional Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region, which includes South Dakota. "Building on the success of the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, the Small Wetlands Program, and other efforts, the Service will promote landscape-level planning, strategic investments of conservation dollars and resources, and strong public-private partnerships to ensure the well-being of the nation’s migratory bird populations."

Grants sponsored by this project are awarded each year, and based on a competitive basis, with projects selected by the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, a seven-member commission. Matching funds must be an integral part of the project proposal.

08 September 2008

FWS Requests Qwest Officials to Comply With Bird Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made an official request that officials of the Qwest Center Omaha take steps to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The request was made due to the ongoing deaths of birds that strike the glass wall on the western side of the building in downtown Omaha.

Reflective conditions at the west wall of the Qwest Center. Photos by J.E. Ducey.

"It is recommended that corrective actions be installed on the Qwest Center windows by no later than September 30, 2008," stated a registered letter sent to Roger Dixon, the president/CEO of the Qwest Center on September 4th by John Cochnar Deputy Nebraska Field Supervisor, at the FWS Grand Island office.

"From May 2008 to September 2, 2008, a total of 52 dead or injured birds have been documented at the Qwest Center. It is anticipated that the number of dead or injured migratory birds at the Qwest Center will increase as fall migration resumes in early September. Further, it is also important to mention that collisions with the Qwest Center windows have likely been occurring since the building was constructed, but went unreported," the letter said.

A variety of birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act have been among the fatalities, including the ovenbird, Nashville warbler, clay-colored sparrow, white-throated sparrow, palm warbler, gray catbird, and American redstart.

"The MBTA prohibits the direct intentional and/or unintentional take (i.e., killing or injuring) of migratory birds," the letter said. "Collision of birds with windows is an example of a prohibited form of unintentional direct take. The MBTA has mandated provisions that require the Service to enforce actions that result in the direct intentional and/or unintentional take of migratory birds. In the past, the Service has fined entities for violations of MBTA in Nebraska."

Carcass of a Gray Catbird on a bench at the west side of the Qwest Center. Picture taken 9 Jun 2008.

Representatives of the Qwest Center were previously made aware of provisions of the MBTA in an e-mail sent by FWS biologist Robert Harms on June 3, 2008, and at a follow-up meeting with two other representatives of the Qwest Center at an onsite meeting on July 31. A copy of some "Bird Safe Building Guidelines" were also provided to the Qwest officials at the July meeting.

A meeting between Qwest officials and a biologist with the FWS has been scheduled.

"The Service's preference is to always work collaboratively in circumstances where birds are being unnecessary killed or injured to develop corrective actions. We look forward to working with the Qwest Center to avoid the further unnecessary death and injury to migratory birds and plan to meet with you on September 24, 2008, to offer technical assistance."

"Protection of migratory birds, a public trust resource, is a priority for the Fish and Wild Service in Nebraska given the tremendous migration that occurs annually in our state," Harms said. "In North America, there has been a widespread decline in many species of migratory birds due to habitat loss. When we know that the unnecessary death and injury to migratory birds is occurring and that there are solutions to prevent this, the Service as a benefactor of that public resource will take steps to do something about it."

There has been no action taken yet to implement preventative measures to reduce or eliminate bird strikes, according to Harms.

Map showing September bird strikes in eastern Omaha.

Second Letter Sent by FWS

A letter similar to that sent to Qwest officials was sent to the Omaha World-Herald on September 10th, also asking that corrective actions be installed by September 30th.

Company officials were informed of bird strikes at a meeting held on July 31, 2008. The Company was asked to advise the FWS officials "once corrective actions have been completed."

Bird strikes have been documented to occur at the west side of the Freedom Center, and at the east side of the OWH Building.

07 September 2008

Purple Martins a Spectacle at Midtown Omaha Roost

A purple martin roost located has provided a consistent spectacle to bird enthusiasts since it was first located on 23 August 2008.

A skywalk at the site has been a hazard to the gathering martins, with a number of dead and temporarily stunned birds.

This is a stunned bird on the 26th of August, which was captured and kept for about 30 minutes until it was placed on a branch in one of the roost trees.
This is a view of some martins crossing 44th street, just before landing in the trees of the roost.
Picture taken on 2 Sep 2008. The following picture shows some of the martins in a roost tree.

The martins are using 10-12 trees in an urban setting, at the Nebraska Medical Center. Several hundred European starlings and common grackles were also using the roost trees during the first few days of observation. By the 6th, there were probably just a couple of hundred grackles present.

The north roost area, at the southeast corner of 44th and Farnam Streets. These are ash trees.

The south roost area. Pictures taken 4 September 2008.

Watchers at the martin roost on 4 September 2008. The videographer is shooting a news segment for a local television station. The gentleman in the purple hat is Dennis Devine, a martin consultant and enthusiast for more than 35 years. This is the first martin roost he has seen.

This is a view of the swarm of martins in a portion of the sky above the roost site, on the 4th. This evening, nearly the entire sky was dotted with martins.

A peak in the number of martins was reached on the 4th, with an estimated 35,000 present. The spectacle was watched by about 25 people, many which came out in response to the newspaper article.

Lesser numbers have subsequently used the roost, with only about 8,000 martins present on the 6th.

To the east of the roost trees, is a skywalk between the two buildings. After several martin carcasses were noted beneath the walkway, officials with the Nebraska Medical Center were informed, and within a few days, and once additional information was received from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official, banners were placed in the windows to create a visual barrier to the flying birds. There have been deaths subsequent to the placement of the banners. The piece of plywood was already in place, as a temporary fix for a broken pane of glass.

There have been several strikes which did not result in a mortality, and these birds have been kept for a time until placed into a roost tree. Having watchers on the scene has allowed these birds to be retrieved before they could have been runover by a vehicle, since two streets run beneath the skywalk.

Martins Still Present After Two Weeks

KETV channel 7 featured a news presentation on their 5:30 p.m. news, Sunday the 7th. Although the video is not available, there is a brief report.

There are fewer martins at the roost site, with an estimated 7500-8000 present on the evening of 7 September. About 20 people were present on a pleasant Sunday evening watching the martin action.

Sunday Evening Martin Skies

It appears there is a different bunch of birds present, as the martins are behaving differently. There is more swooping around the buildings, and different trees are being used.

After the birds had all settled, there were three fatalities at the south skywalk, and a fourth bird was retrieved and held for a while so it could recover from it striking the glass surface. There have been no barriers posted on the south skywalk to make the clear glass opaque and visible to the martins.

This is a martin that was retrieved from the pavement under the north skywalk and kept for a time until it was ready to leave and swoop into a roost tree.

Tuesday Evening

The number of watchers dramatically diminished but there was a notable increase in birds on 9th of September. Three people watched as ca. 10,000 martins came into the roost trees. The birds acted differently, with more low level flying, and the birds in multiple levels of flight, being above the trees, up at 100-200 feet and at higher elevations in the airspace. This evening there were also more martin "tornadoes" as hundreds of the birds would gather in groups and swirl about in a vortex a few hundred feet above midtown.

Bird mortality continues unabated. There were three instances of bird strikes, with two fatalities. There has been no change in the north skywalk, despite comments from an official from the Nebraska Medical Center on 5 September that something would be done, when he noted four dead martins on the Friday night. Another watcher that has called officials at the Nebraska Medical Center several times and left a message requesting that they call back to discuss the ongoing deaths, has not received any call.

It would appear that the comments made by the NMC official that something would be done to place something different in the skywalk windows were just "empty words." The banners now in place are not effective, based on the ongoing deaths of the martins. There have been more than twenty strikes since the banners were put in place, and the NMC received accolades in a newspaper article for their efforts. How wrong those comments were, based on what has happened subsequently.

This is a series of photos showing the death of one martin on 9 September. The first picture was taken moments after the bird hit the pavement. Note how the tail feathers constrict, as life ebbs for this formerly beautiful bird, which moments earlier had been gracefully soaring in the midtown skies. This was another needless death from a bird strike at an Omaha building!

At this point in time, the martin enthusiasts at the roost just wish the birds would go south, so there would be no further deaths at the roost site...

04 September 2008

Purple Martin Roost at Midtown Omaha

Published Wednesday - September 3, 2008
Thousands of the purple martins roost at medical center
By Maggie O'Brien

They have been meeting nearly every evening — and some mornings — for more than a week now, a group of anywhere from a few to a dozen or so people who are hooked on bird-watching.

Not just any birds, mind you. As many as 35,000 purple martins, which have made an extraordinary late-summer roost in Omaha.

"It's a purple martin storm," said Justin Rink, a self-described birder who watched, amazed, as the sea of birds with their signature purple-black sheen soared above the Nebraska Medical Center.

A few gutsy martins dived so low that they stopped just short of grazing Rink's baseball cap.

Omaha birder Jim Ducey, who alerted other birders to the flock almost two weeks ago, said about 15,000 birds initially appeared on the hospital campus — a number that he said has more than doubled this week.

This might be the largest purple martin gathering recorded in Nebraska, said Robert Harms, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Grand Island.

"It's unusual to hear about that many," he said. "That's a huge number."

Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society, said it's normal for purple martins to swarm before migrating to South America. What's a little strange, he said, is that such a large flock would congregate in Nebraska. The birds tend to flock together at points farther southeast.

The flock also is notable because since 1980, purple martin populations have declined across the United States, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "Birds of North America Online."

Scientists don't know what caused the decline, but they say changes in weather or competition from other birds such as house sparrows and European starlings might be factors.

The medical center has had to take steps to minimize purple martin deaths on the campus.

That's because purple martins, like other migrating birds, are protected by federal law under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which says that they cannot be harmed or killed, even unintentionally, Harms said.

A person or business could face thousands of dollars in fine per bird that is killed. But Mark Webb, a special agent with the Lincoln office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said, "Our goal is to conserve wildlife, not to prosecute every potential violator." If there is a problem with birds being killed, Webb said, officials try to work with businesses to address the matter.

Harms said 15 purple martins from this flock are known to have died after crashing into the windows of a skywalk at the medical center.

Paul Baltes, a medical center spokesman, said the grounds staff, upon the advice of federal officials, temporarily covered the windows so the birds would not see reflections of themselves or trees and fly into the glass.

No birds have died since the window coverings went up Saturday morning, and the medical center was not fined.

"We want to do everything we can to make sure the birds are protected," Baltes said.

The purple martins, the largest of the swallow family, roost in about 12 trees on 44th Street, just south of Farnam Street. Their migration route will take them to Florida and other Southern states before they head to South America, where they will spend the winter.

They will return to the Midwest next spring, probably around the end of March or beginning of April.

The purple martins' annual journey seems a little late this year, said Dennis Devine, known as the Purple Martin Man of Council Bluffs. The reason?

"Only God knows why," said Devine, a bird lover for much of his life.

One reason purple martins flock together is to find safety in numbers against predators, such as peregrine falcons. It's easier for purple martins to form large flocks at this time of year because food supplies are plentiful. The birds feast on dragonflies, grasshoppers, mayflies and other insects.

On a recent night, the martins twirled and swooped through the air, flirting with fascinated onlookers, before again rising into the sky — still a deep blue, even at dusk — and darting from tree to tree. They incessantly chattered — although males chortle, Rink said — making their own unique music that is part chirping songbird, part locust. After a half-hour or so, they settled into the trees to rest for the night before taking off around 6 a.m. the next day.

"They really sounded like rain," said Ari Nowacek, a medical student and Ph.D. candidate at University of Nebraska Medical Center, who watched and listened to the birds during a research break. "It's not noise. It's a pretty song."

Added Devine, who was decked out in a purple hat and shirt to honor his feathered friends: "This is better than Christmas."

02 September 2008

UNL Makes Changes to Keep Its Birds Alive

By ALGIS J. LAUKAITIS / Lincoln Journal Star
Tuesday, Sep 02, 2008 - 01:08:30 am CDT

Song birds are dying by the hundreds on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln City Campus and elsewhere in the state.

The killer is not West Nile or any other avian disease. These birds are dying because they crash into big plate glass windows and fall helplessly to the ground.

Birds see the reflections of the trees and other landscaping in the windows and think they are flying into a park-like habitat, said Bob Harms, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Grand Island.

And that’s when they get killed or seriously injured.

Most of the casualties are song birds that migrate through the area in spring and autumn. April and May and mid-September to early November are the highest mortality periods.

The deadliest places for birds appear to be glass-walled passageways between university buildings and large structures with window facades. More than 100 bird species have been recorded on City Campus. Here are some of the worst areas:

* Cather Residence Hall to Pound Residence Hall to Neihardt Residence Center.
* Oldfather Hall to Bessey Hall and Burnett Hall.
* Nebraska Hall to Walter Scott Engineering Center.
* Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery.
* Memorial Stadium, east side.
* Architecture Hall, new addition.

No accurate count on the bird-strike deaths is available because groundskeepers pick up the carcasses as part of their daily rounds. Also feral cats walk off with dead or injured birds.

However, local bird enthusiast and conservationist Jim Ducey has been tracking bird-strike deaths on City Campus for two years and more recently in Omaha. He’s also researched records dating back to 1985 kept by the University of Nebraska State Museum, which over the years has gathered up dead birds for its specimen collection.

Based on his scattered data, Ducey estimates the city is losing at least a couple of hundred migratory song birds annually on City Campus alone. He said bird-strike deaths also were happening on East Campus and in Lincoln’s downtown.

In downtown Omaha, Ducey counted 150 dead birds during the past four months. The Qwest Center and the Omaha World-Herald’s Freedom Center, with their big glass windows, have some of the highest bird-strike numbers.

"A wide variety of birds, in my opinion, are dying unnecessary deaths," Ducey said. "There are architectural methods that can be utilized to avoid the problem. Those have been mostly ignored. We don’t need any bird deaths from striking a building. It’s not necessary."

Thanks to Ducey’s efforts, the USFWS is working with UNL officials and others in Omaha to reduce the number of bird deaths. The federal agency is involved because migratory birds are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

"It’s happening elsewhere in the state, and it’s happening elsewhere in the country," Harms said, referring to bird-strike deaths.

In 2002, the USFWS estimated that between 97 million to 970 million birds were killed each year in window collisions.

As a result of on-going discussions, the university has installed special ultra-violet decals on some of its large plate glass windows to try to reduce the number of bird strikes. The decals supposedly cut down on reflection and make windows appear solid.

Ted Weidner, vice chancellor of facilities management and planning, said the manufacturer said the decals catch light in the ultra-violet range, which only birds can see. But he’s a little doubtful.

"We can see them to apply them," he added.

The large decals have been applied in two areas where a lot of dead birds have been found: the Oldfather Hall links to Bessey Hall and Burnett Hall, and the Cather-Pound-Neihardt passageways.

The university also is looking at other areas where bird strikes have occurred to see whether the UV decals will work.

Decals would be impractical on places such as the east side of Memorial Stadium and Sheldon Art Gallery.

"It would be like putting a sticker on the State Capitol," he added.

Lighting may have to be examined in those buildings. Turning off lights or shielding them are possibilities.

Weidner said he also would like a small student study to find the most effective way to convince birds not to fly through glass. The university may examine its landscaping practices to see whether something needs to be done in that area to keep birds away, he said.

Ducey praised the university for its bird-protection efforts, calling it a great beginning.

"I think UNL has really stepped up and changed the whole dynamics and taken responsibility for what is occurring on this campus," he said.

Ducey doesn’t want the university to do anything that would ruin the architecture of its buildings. Neither does Harms.

"The Sheldon building and Memorial Stadium are sacred places in Nebraska. Not everything would work. We don’t want to reduce the importance of the decor of these buildings," he said.

Said Weidner: "The university is attempting to be a good place for humans and birds."

Bird Strikes at Omaha Buildings - An Update

During intermittent surveys in eastern Omaha, additional occurrences of bird strikes were found through the summer months. Overall for the period of May through August, there were 167 known occurrences of birds striking buildings, primarily in the downtown area, and a couple of other places in eastern Omaha.

This is the overall tally for buildings where known bird strikes occurred:

Building - No. of Strikes

  • Qwest Center Omaha - 52
  • 1200 Landmark Center - 16
  • Kiewit-Clarkson Passageway - 15
  • Omaha World-Herald Freedom Center - 14
  • Central Park Plaza - 12
  • Union Pacific Center - 10
  • Holland Performing Arts Center - 10
  • Omaha World-Herald Building - 7
  • Tower Park passageway - 5
  • Omaha Public Power District headquarters - 4
  • Nebraska State Office Building - 4
  • American National Bank - 4
  • First National Bank - 2
  • Edward Zorinsky Federal Building - 2
  • All Makes Office Equipment Company - 2
  • Woodmen Park - 1
  • Slowdown Lounge - 1
  • O'Keefe Elevator Company - 1
  • Kutak Rock, Omaha Building - 1
  • J.P. Cooke - 1
  • First National Tower - 1
  • 17th and Harney Street - 1
  • 1405 Harney Street - 1

Noted most often during the summer weeks were typical resident species, with larger numbers of species such as the Common Grackle, occurring after the birds began to fledge from nests at the various green spaces scattered among the buildings. Also the Chimney Swift, and lesser numbers of the Mourning Dove, Northern Flicker, and House Wren. A Belted Kingfisher was an unusual instance, noted at a building westward of the lagoon at the Central Park Mall.

Bird Species Name - No. of Records

• Common Grackle - 18
• Purple Martin - 15
• Common Yellowthroat - 14
• Tennessee Warbler - 13
• Ovenbird - 9
• Indigo Bunting - 9
• Sora - 5
• Chimney Swift - 5
• Yellow Warbler - 4
• Nashville Warbler - 4
• Mourning Warbler - 4
• Gray Catbird - 4
• Clay-colored Sparrow - 4
• Willow Flycatcher - 3
• White-throated Sparrow - 3
• Swainson's Thrush - 3
• Rose-breasted Grosbeak - 3
• Eastern Wood-Pewee - 3
• American Robin - 3
• Yellow-rumped Warbler - 2
• Yellow-billed Cuckoo - 2
• Wilson's Warbler - 2
• Warbling Vireo - 2
• Palm Warbler - 2
• Mourning Dove - 2
• Lincoln's Sparrow - 2
• Baltimore Oriole - 2
• American Redstart - 2
• Worm-eating Warbler - 1
• Red-eyed Vireo - 1
• Olive-sided Flycatcher - 1
• Northern Waterthrush - 1
• Northern Flicker - 1
• Louisiana Waterthrush - 1
• Least Flycatcher - 1
• House Wren - 1
• House Finch - 1
• Hooded Warbler - 1
• Hairy Woodpecker - 1
• Eastern Kingbird - 1
• Connecticut Warbler - 1
• Common Nighthawk - 1
• Chipping Sparrow - 1
• Chestnut-sided Warbler - 1
• Cedar Waxwing - 1
• Blue Grosbeak - 1
• Black-and-white Warbler - 1
• Belted Kingfisher - 1

During the four month period, 47 species were recorded. Additional records would be included for instances where the particular species was not certain due to the age of the carcass and missing essentials for identification.

Most of the warbler records were from the spring migration period. Additional instances began to occur at the end of August, initiating the autumn migration.

Purple Martins were fatalities at the passageway between the Kiewit Center and the Clarkson Doctor's building South in the last few days of August. After 15 known instances (12 dead and 3 injured birds during 23-28 August), personnel associated with the Nebraska Medical Center hung banners on August 30th, within the passageway, on the west side, to provide a visual barrier for the thousands of birds occurring at the locale. Additional occurrences likely occurred before the roost was discovered on August 23rd.

This has been the only effort to reduce or prevent bird strikes at any of the known places of danger at buildings indicated on the above list. There is a massive roost for Purple Martins in some ash trees just west of the passageway, with at least 25,000 martins present during the nights of the last few days of August.

The specific site of the known bird strikes are shown on a map of the area where buildings were checked.