14 June 2009

Known Bird-strikes in Omaha Streak Past 500

The finding of three more bird carcasses on June 13 documents a known tally of 502 bird-strike occurrences in east Omaha.

The species found and the locales where they occurred are the usual places where bird strikes have occurred on a nearly continual basis during the months since May 2008.

A male Indigo Bunting was the first carcass found on Saturday morning - instance no. 500 - on the west side of the Qwest Center Omaha. Pictures were taken to show the situation where the carcass was languishing on the sidewalk.

Indigo Bunting that died from hitting the glass wall on the west side of the Qwest Center Omaha. Note the features of the locale apparent in the background, included to prove the location of the carcass. Picture taken June 13, 2009.

This carcass was not handled in any manner - nor are any of the dead birds noted taken into possession - to ensure that there was no violation of aspects of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Apparently it is supposedly not legal to handle or possess migratory birds. Only photographs were taken while at a public or semi-public situation, which is not illegal at this time.

A female Mourning Warbler found on the south side of the Union Pacific Center is instance no. 501. The carcass was left in situ upon the sidewalk, a public venue. Someone that works on the premises would therefore be responsible for its pickup and disposal.

This removal would apparently be a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, since a permit is required to handle or possess a migratory bird and it would require that a carcass get picked to be thrown into the trash and would then be "in possession" of the person removing each dead bird.

Mourning Warbler struck dead by the glass at the Union Pacific Center.

Juvenile American Robin struck dead at the Harper Center, Creighton University.

A juvenile American Robin was another dead bird carcass - instance no. 502 - found on the south side of the Harper Center, a recently completed building on the campus of Creighton University. Someone will violate the MBTA when they pick up and throw away this carcass and any others on their grounds.

Each of the applicable violations have been ignored by federal officials of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency responsible for enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. There is obviously some type of discretionary application of the law, as there have not been any citations for bird strikes at Omaha, or elsewere.

There have now been at 502 known bird strikes in a 14-month period at Omaha. Additional occurrences are known to have occurred at the National Park Service building on the riverfront, but despite several requests for information last summer, they would not provide any information with details.

There have now been nearly 500 known violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act during a 14-month period in Omaha, as the overall tally to consider cannot include the House Sparrow, European Starling or Rock Pigeon which are not covered by the MBTA.

Top 12 Locations for Number of Known Bird-strikes at Omaha

• Qwest Center Omaha - 162
• Union Pacific Center - 41
• Kiewit-Clarkson Skywalk - 38
• Central Park Plaza - 37
• 1200 Landmark Center - 35
• Holland Center for Performing Arts - 31
• Gottschalk Freedom Center - 22
• Zorinsky Federal Building - 16
• First National Tower - 14
• Omaha Public Power District Energy Plaza - 14
• Harper Center, Creighton University - 10
• Omaha World-Herald Building - 10

A bird-strike is defined as the finding of a disabled or dead bird at a particular place, with information kept since May 2008 on the bird species, date, and particular location.

Deadliest Buildings for Migratory Birds

Qwest Center Omaha is the deadliest locale, considering that the greatest number of known instances of bird strikes have occurred at this building, with nearly every one on the west side with a facade of reflective glass. There are 162 available records, which is about one-third of the overall number of known instances of bird strikes in east Omaha.

The Qwest Center Omaha is managed by the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, with Roger Dixon the ceo, and a management board that is also involved in some manner in decisions regarding the facilities. The organization has obviously done nothing to address the bird strikes, although they are certainly aware of the situation, as a Fish and Wildlife Service official met with them last year, and the staff of the facility clean up each carcass of every bird which now dies from striking the building glass.

There have been 39 instances thus far this year. Each strike is a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Also, when staff pick up and dispose of a bird carcass, they are also violating a federal law by handling a migratory bird species without any legal authorization.

There has been no enforcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of these blatant, obvious and ongoing violations of federal law.

It seems somewhat ironic that the second carcass of the morning was at the Union Pacific Center, which has the dubious claim of being the second in the overall tally of known bird strikes. This company has also violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act numerous times, through the taking aspect of the law and by handling the bird carcasses when they are thrown into the trash for disposal.

At Creighton University, the Harper Center - with its construction completed in 2008 - is an up-and-coming building in the ratings for bird strikes. There are ten known fatalities, with the first known instance in mid-September last year, with six instances through the end of the year, and four thus far this year.

The Durham Research Center is an up-and-coming place for bird strikes, located at the western extent of the "wall of death" which extends from Omaha's riverfront to the two structures that comprise the research buildings on the campus of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The two towers, and a skywalk which connects to older buildings on campus may be new constructs, but the UNMC campus has an unknown legacy of bird strikes indicated by the recent finding of a dead robin beneath the skywalk between Wittson and Bennett Halls.

The Sorrell Center is another new building, with an associated skywalk and localized landscaping, which is a newly documented hazard where a Common Grackle was found dead due to the use of glass as an exterior wall.

It should be pointed out, that each instance of a strike is a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, according to information received in several instances from federal officials.

Species Noted Most Often as Bird-strikes at Omaha

• Common Yellowthroat - 52
• Purple Martin * - 45
• Lincoln's Sparrow - 39
• Nashville Warbler - 36
• Common Grackle - 28
• Clay-colored Sparrow - 20
• Indigo Bunting - 20
• Mourning Warbler - 16
• Tennessee Warbler - 16
• Ovenbird - 14
• Mourning Dove - 11
• White-throated Sparrow - 11
• Dark-eyed Junco - 11

* Instances for the Purple Martin should be considered a localized occurrence as they gathered in multitudes at a roost in midtown, as they have not noted to strike any buildings elsewhere.

Variety of Birds Killed or Injured

More than 70 species are represented in the total tally for Omaha.

Warblers and sparrows are mostly represented in the list of species with the greatest number of bird strikes.

Bleak Future

Birds that are struck dead in Omaha due to the built environment - with ongoing development to occur - will continue and the hazardous situation for migratory birds is going to worsen.

There are buildings to be built which have features that are obvious hazards to the many, documented species which migrate through the area in spring and autumn, or breed in suitable places within the urban environs.

At Creighton University, construction is just starting on the Rasmussen building, with much of the exterior walls comprised of glass. The architectural rendering obviously show this. This structure is located within a block of the Harper Center, so those species which have been rendered dead at this place, will also occur nearby, so there will be an additional hazard.

Creighton officials have also been informed of the bird strikes more than once, yet there has been nothing done to address the problems.

Further west, at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, there is the pending Maurer Center for Public Health which is also shown to include prominent glass features. With the typical landscaping placed about the campus buildings, this place will also be a hazard, based on the combination of reflective glass and vegetation.

Rasmussen Center to be built at Creighton University. View from the southwest. Note the extensive use of glass!

Maurer Center for Public Health to be constructed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Ongoing Agony of Death

The death or temporary disabling of each bird for the known - and unknown for that matter - is an individual agony of suffering which is being completely ignored by the multiple companies managing the buildings where the strikes occur again and again.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which is responsible for enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act - which applies in each instance of a bird strike as it is considered taking - is also indifferent, as they have done nothing to stop the multitude of bird deaths, either in Omaha, in Lincoln where there have also been hundreds of birds strikes, and elsewhere across their jurisdiction in the United States.

When Robert Harms and June Deweese of the regional office at Grand Island were asked to comment on the deaths, they did not provide any reply.

Bird are going to continue to die - needlessly - with the extent unabated and basically thoroughly ignored! There is no "pro-environment" effort to conserve birds in Omaha, with the multitudes of deaths a definite "black mark" on any claim to being a "green city."

There were 500 bird strikes in 14 months. And the tally continues to climb ... as there were three more dead birds found on June 14th, and others will certainly occur with needless regularity.

Dead American Robin and House Finch on the south side of the Harper Center, Creighton University. June 14, 2009. When going past the west side of this building, another finch was heard hitting the glass but it appeared to be a glancing blow, as the bird was seen to fly away.

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