16 September 2013

Kerrey Bridge Lighting Threat to Migratory Birds?

Intentional lighting of the Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge along the Omaha Riverfront is likely creating a hazard for migratory wildbirds.

The lights of the structure, which are appropriately turned off at 11 p.m., are turned back on at 5 a.m. by a lighting schedule maintained by the Omaha Parks Recreation and Public Property department. Not only are there bright white, constant lights upon the guy wires, but a "light show" atop the two support pylons. The latter flashes different colors and color mixes.

Improving migratory safety for birds is accomplished by turning "lights out." There are these types of programs in Boston, Chicago, New York City, Portland, Washington D.C., the San Francisco Bay area and Toronto. Omaha officials have chosen to do just the opposite.

It is the early morning period which establishes a hazard. About this time, during the spring and autumn migration periods, migratory birds are looking to find a safe haven. within this urban environment. With sunrise after 7 a.m. during mid-September, and then later, there is about a two hour period when the lights would be hazardous.

It is highly unlikely to find any carcasses due to their striking the guy wires or other features, as they would probably fall down into the Missouri River.

Pictures of the bridge lights early on the morning of September 6, 2013.

Lights are an obvious hazard to migrating wildbirds, as well documented in the scientific literature. There have also been known occurrences of window-bird strikes at adjacent Omaha buildings since 2008. This includes the adjacent National Park Service building and nearby CenturyLink Center Omaha.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through their responsibility associated with bird protection through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, has been asked to investigate this matter.

During the migration season, there should be a minimum of light on the Kerry Pedestrian Bridge. It is very likely that public officials will insist that public safety and visual presentation will override any environmental concerns.

Colors of the lights which flash and phase atop the pylons at the Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
The birds sitting on the guy wires are European Starlings, which are not a protected species.