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.

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