15 October 2013

Omaha's Zesto Building Conveys Design Problems and Causes

The relatively recently built Zesto building in North Downtown is gaining prominence for its significance associated with bird-window strikes.

The weekend of October 12-13 was especially revealing. Primarily the east facade — but newly realized for the north facade — the structure had at least seven window strikes on Saturday (four) and Sunday (three). There were certainly other strikes. Rainy weather on the morning of October 14th, limited survey efforts due to the wet conditions for a route which is usually traversed via a bicycle.

Birds were obviously active in the landscaping associated with the west parking lot of the CenturyLink Center, and on the north side of TDAmeritrade Park. They could be seen flying among the trees and ground vegetation, early in the morning.

A portion of the northern treescape at the west parking lot of the CenturyLink Center, with the Zesto building in the background.

Tree and ground vegetation on the south side of TDAmeritrade Park, which is directly north of the Zesto Building, on 12th Street.

Some of them hit the outer glass of the three businesses at this location: Zesto (at the south end of the building, and which is currently closed for the season), Blatts Beer and Table, and Lids Locker Room.

Most of the strikes occurred because of the glass exterior of Lids Locker Room, which is deadly to migratory birds.

Within a few days of mid-October, at least a dozen strikes occurred, as shown by the available records, derived from site visits on each day indicated from October 5th to October 13th. Weather during the most recent weekend was especially hazardous, as clear skies, slight winds and dearth of storms meant that many birds moved south in association with their autumnal migration.

  • 278: 3
  • 279: 1
  • 281: 1
  • 285: 4
  • 286 (October 13th): 3

During the Saturday visit, while appropriately dealing with the triage of the birds already dead or injured on the sidewalk along the east side of the building, another bird bounced off the glass and, thankfully, was able to continue its flight onward back to the trees at the CenturyLink parking lot.

Once notes were written, the mornings' route continued on both Saturday and Sunday. There may have been other disabling strikes that happened, but there were other hazardous buildings to survey in downtown Omaha, along the riverfront and bluffs of the great migratory flightway associated with the Missouri River.

The species noted during 2013 at the Zesto building have, thus far, been the: Orange-crowned Warbler (one which was moved away from the sidewalk to beneath a tree and upon the few square feet of mulch, so it could die on a natural surface); Yellow-rumped Warbler (one), Mourning Warbler (one), Common Yellowthroat (five, which have mostly been female birds), Clay-colored Sparrow (three); Lincoln's Sparrow (seven, including some which hit the glass and suffer for quite a time upon the sidewalk as they recover); White-throated Sparrow (one); and, Dark-eyed Junco (one).

Pictures showing bird strike victims and the setting at the Zesto Building in North Downtown.

There was only one window-strike noted at this building during the autumn of 2012, in September. Six strikes are known to have occurred in May 2013. Add in an additional occurrence on September 11, 2013 to indicate the tally of suffering wrought by the architectural features of this place.

Dangerous Architecture by Design

Owners of the Zesto building are probably not aware of how dangerous their building is for appreciated migratory birds. Nothing has been done to address this intentionally built structure, which can now be known for its well recognized facet of causing bird deaths, as well as for other lesser features.

The obvious threats associated with this building were originally conveyed to its architect's before the plans began to become a structure. Some of the first strikes were indicated to the agency, so they are aware of the results.

Several obvious changes wrought the demise of so many birds in North Downtown. They include:

  1. Clearing of the historic setting for urban redevelopment which has changed the urban habitat;
  2. Requirements by planning officials of the City of Omaha which require landscaping features, as supported by advocacy groups such as Omaha by Design, for example;
  3. Building architecture which include prominent glass facades, instead of the more "passive" wall features, such as brick, used for historic construction;
  4. Failure of building architects to actively consider bird-safe designs;
  5. Construction of numerous buildings with associated plantings which attract birds to a hazardous environment;
  6. Failure of building owners to suitably address problems at places where bird strikes occur and have been repeatedly documented;
  7. Failure of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, wherein every bird strike is considered a taking of a protected species; and
  8. An obvious lack of intention in multiple instances by building owners to show any concern for conservation of wildbirds associated with the Missouri River valley. This is especially the case at the CenturyLink Center and TdAmeritrade Park managed by the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, at the 1200 Landmark Center, the Curtis Federal Building which has offices of the United States National Park Service, the Gottschalk Freedom Center associated with the Omaha World-Herald, Central Park Plaza, actions by the an unctuous official associated with the First National Bank tower, Union Pacific Center which is the home to a company which has millions of dollars in profit throughout the year and would would seem to be sufficient to provide funds to establish a bird-safe building, Holland Performing Arts Center, Zorinsky Federal Building which has federal offices and whose building management ignore the mandate of a "sister" agency of the United States of America government, Omaha-Douglas Civic Center, Law Building, etc.

Steps can be taken to reduce the incessant and illegal "taking" of wildbirds. There are a multitude of options, obvious to any knowledgeable and tendentious observer. This includes especially blinds which would be relatively inexpensive and not mar the static display of merchandise which no one might look at during the overnight and early morning hours.

Wildbirds are dying and suffering for unnecessary reasons in north downtown, and well as in the greater downtown area! Every building owner where they occur is responsible!