05 July 2012

Spring Window-strikes Kill Multitude of Birds

Another year's tally of birds hitting windows with deadly results at downtown Omaha had an early start in the spring of 2012.

A White-throated Sparrow carcass found April 5, 2012 was the first instance noted for the year, and the earliest window-strike instance observed during the past five years. This bird was dead and moribund at the west side of the CenturyLink Center Omaha, and was indicative of the trend during the next two months.

Two instances of dead sparrows on April 18th started the regular and ongoing occurrence of window-strikes for the spring season, when daily outings — via self-propelled bicycling in the first hour or two of a morning — were done to find dead or disabled birds at buildings in downtown Omaha. There were fatalities or injured birds nearly every day through the end of May.

Pictures were taken — as usual — to document each window-strike occurrence.

The west side of the CenturyLink Center Omaha with its vast expanse of glass and adjacent landscape plantings is the worst bird-hazard in the city, and where the largest number of window-strike instances were located this spring, as well as during the past five years. The deaths continue to occur despite little square decals that have been placed on the upper extent of the glass surface, which were replaced during the spring season this year, at an unknown cost to MECA.

This spring's tally shows the loss of many migratory bird species along the Missouri River valley, as usual. These are the details associated with particular buildings in downtown Omaha:

  • CenturyLink Center Omaha: 48 window-strike occurrences documented along the entire extent of the west side of this structure
  • Holland Performing Arts Center: 9, with the majority noted in the interior courtyard
  • 1200 Landmark Center: 7, mostly on the north side
  • Gottschalk Freedom Center: 7, and all on the west side where glass prevails
  • Central Park Plaza: 6, on the east side of the twin towers
  • First National Tower: 6, on the north side, near their insipid atrium
  • Omaha Public Power District Energy Plaza: 4 deaths despite the window covering placed a couple of years ago
  • Omaha-Douglas Civic Center: 4, predominantly at the north side plaza
  • Law Building: 3
  • Brandeis Building: 2
  • Union Pacific Center: 2
  • Zorinsky Federal Building: 2
  • 16th Street - North Skywalk: 1
  • All Makes Office Equipment Company: 1
  • Barnhart Press: 1
  • Curtis Park Service Building: 1, with the carcass of an unknown species also present on the north side on the same day
  • Exchange Building: 1
  • Farnam Plaza: 1
  • First National Bank Building: 1
  • Flatiron Building: 1
  • Kutak-Rock Omaha Building: 1
  • Metropolitan Utilities District building: 1
  • Redfield and Company Building: 1
  • Woodmen Tower Skywalk: 1

There were 29 species represented in the tally, with a significant number of warblers as victims. The vivid colors of each bird is appreciated for a short time, but it is abbreviated because of the cause of the demise. This spring, records were:

  • Common Yellowthroat: 24, with May 24 a day when so many of this diminutive warbler were impacted, with many removed from the courtyard of the Holland Center as they were observed as not being able to readily escape; it was an averted disaster
  • Tennessee Warbler: 18
  • Common Grackle: 10; grackles are thriving in downtown, but many die due to structural conditions
  • Indigo Bunting: 8; there are too many of this little bird found dead, and many, sadly, are females and the future of the species; thoughts of agony on this
  • Gray Catbird: 6; this expressive species has always been more appreciated alive than dead, but in downtown Omaha, the splendor of their plumage is a certainly expressive
  • Lincoln's Sparrow: 6
  • White-throated Sparrow: 6
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak: 5; the beauty of these grosbeaks is always a wonder to appreciate close-up, but their death is obviously a sad event to observe
  • Clay-colored Sparrow: 4
  • Swainson's Thrush: 3
  • Baltimore Oriole: 2 of these beautiful, colorful birds sadly met their demise while trying to go past urban Omaha
  • Brown Thrasher: 2
  • Ovenbird: 2, always found dead by some glass expanse
  • Blackpoll Warbler: 1
  • Cedar Waxwing: 1 at the Flatiron Building
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee: 1
  • Field Sparrow: 1
  • Grasshopper Sparrow: 1
  • Harris's Sparrow: 1
  • Mourning Dove: 1
  • Northern Parula: 1 bird to appreciate
  • Orange-crowned Warbler: 1
  • Prothonotary Warbler: 1 disabled bird that was certainly appreciated
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird: 1
  • Savannah Sparrow: 1
  • Vesper Sparrow: 1
  • Willow Flycatcher: 1
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo: 1 removed from the bank premises
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler: 1

During the two-month period, species that had not been previously noted since 2008 were the Northern Parula, Blackpoll Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Field Sparrow and Vesper Sparrow. The reason for their unique occurrence would be an intriguing detail to understand.

The survey period did end without any significant personal event, except for a couple of minutes at the First National Bank Tower, while taking a hurried picture a window-strike victim. This bird was taken away upon departure.

During this period, particular attention was given to the final fate of a carcass or disabled bird. Every carcass found was taken away and placed in a natural situation, rather than their ending up in a trash can. Placing the former bit of wild life in some woods or bit of green space allows their spirit to transcend in a manner more representative of a natural demise. Getting thrown in the trash does not respect in any manner the wild spirit of any birds, though obviously any building-owner could care less as they just want to get rid of the carcass!

Transporting live birds to a more amenable situation may have improved their chances for survival. Being moribund upon a sidewalk is wrought with threats, perhaps including being stomped by an pedestrian ignorant of the situation.

No dead or alive birds were kept in possession, during this or any other season.

Ongoing Mortality

There have been additional instances of window-strikes during June, though tepid conditions of weather have meant a lesser degree of surveys among the heat.

At least 92 different species have been victims of window-strikes about Omaha, based upon a tally developed during the past five years of documenting individual instances.

Each window strike is an instance of a "taking" as regulated by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Regulations of this Act are supposed to be enforced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In Omaha, any efforts by this federal agency have basically been insignificant. This is most obvious at the CenturyLink Center Omaha, where despite window decals — which obviously have not been effective — it continues to be the deadliest place for migrant birds at this urban setting along the Missouri River.