19 September 2011

Omaha Building Notably Dangerous for Migrant Hummingbirds

A particular downtown Omaha building is especially dangerous for migrant Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

Ten dead hummers have been noted in the past four years, with four occurrences in particular associated with the Central Park Plaza.

Most notable is that three of the known instances have been at the same spot of the building's plaza, and within a time period of three days. The only exception among the bunch was a bird that struck glass on the north side of the north tower, ending up on the sidewalk along the street.

It is quite a conundrum why hummingbirds would be killed within the same time period at the same building and within an area no greater than 36 inches in diameter. The specific spot is on the west side of the plaza of the Central Park Plaza, and immediately near the second window from the north end of the windows between the north and south entrances.

A single carcass of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was noted, corresponding to three particular dates:

  • 13 September 2008,
  • The first instance of a dead hummingbird found at the Central Park Plaza buildings.

  • 13 September 2009, and
  • Another instance of a Ruby-throated hummingbird killed by the glass at the Central Park Plaza.

  • 15 September 2011.

Dead hummingbird noted on 16 September 2011, in a completely drenched condition. Based upon the time when found, and weather conditions, it is likely that this bird was struck dead the previous day.

No available explanation can explain this repeated autumnal occurrence. The building's plaza does not have any greenery that might attract birds of any sort. It is separated from the somewhat green situation of the Central Park Mall by the multi-story downtown Omaha Library. Lights might be a factor, but they mostly shine higher upon the two towers.

What might cause this sordid event is not known...

If the unnecessary demise due to windows strikes occurred twice it might be due to chance, but after three instances, it is more than just a random event. Any first-hand explanation is not forth-coming as birds can't describe their behavior, and, anyway, those involved are now dead, and were thrown into the trash to get rid of the formerly live animals.

Some sort of human explanation is not available, and completely lacking. It could be appropriate to investigate the matter further by staking out the place during the same days in future years and watching any hummingbird behavior in a precise and focused manner to gather some interpretable clues. This determination would be derived from an initial four years of gathering records in the early morning of many days.

The unused Law Building has caused two known hummingbird deaths during the same period.

A recent addition to the list of dangerous buildings is the Sorrell Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The bird that died there languished for a time before it was noted. Once that happened, watching eyes made sure it was removed.

Carcasses have also been recorded at the 1200 Landmark Center, Qwest Center Omaha (now Centurylink, though the signs have not yet been changed), and Omaha Public Power District Energy Plaza, which was also a new addition in 2011. At the latter site, the carcass was left on the sidewalk for an extended period.

These sorts of ponderings should not occur, and they would not if the proprietors of particular buildings in downtown Omaha gave attention to the how their buildings are dangers to migrant birds, especially in spring and autumn. If the many structures which are not bird-safe were otherwise presented, there would be noticeably fewer bird strikes and an insufficient record of occurrence to devise trends or repeated occurrences.

Alas, it is otherwise, to the ongoing detriment of birds migrating through the valley of the Missouri River.