08 November 2013

Avian Collisions - Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

This is a copy of the email sent by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Brook Bench, director of the Omaha Parks Recreation and Public Property department; a copy was also sent to the nongame biologist at the Nebraska Game and parks Commission. This letter was the basis for an article "Threat to migrating birds puts spotlight on Bob Kerrey bridge" by Nancy Gaarder that was in the Omaha World-Herald on November 4th. There are some supportive comments included with the online article.

"The purpose of this E-mail is to recommend a minor modification to the current lighting regime at the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge to minimize the risk of birds colliding with the lighted support cables and pylons during their spring and fall migrations. Protection of migratory birds is a priority to the Fish and Wildlife Service and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in Nebraska and we have worked with numerous organizations to find ways to avoid and minimize the risks posed to migratory birds in our state.

"As you are probably aware, the Missouri River provides an important migration corridor for birds in the spring and fall. Many of these birds migrate at night and rest during the day. Sources of light can attract migrating birds, especially if these lights are located along a flight pathway and are illuminated at a time when birds are looking to rest after a night of migration. We believe that this is the time when birds tend to collide with structures and are injured and killed. For this reason, we request that you consider the following modification to the current lighting at the Pedestrian Bridge.

"We request that you shut off the lights on the cables and the vertical pylons at 11:00 pm as is currently done. However, we request that the lights not be turned back on until sunrise during the spring and fall migrations only. Spring migration is from April 15-May 31 and fall migration is from September 1-October 31. Currently, it is our understanding that the lights are turned back on at 5:00 am year round. Path lighting should remained unchanged to ensure a safe environment for those using the bridge as should any lights associated with warning for aircraft or vessels as required by FAA and the Coast Guard, respectively.

"Our effort here is to try and be proactive and work with you on what appears to be a somewhat minor modification to the current lighting regime to protect birds as they migrate along the Missouri River. At this point, we are unaware of any birds that have collided with the lighted cables or pylons at the Pedestrian Bridge. It is likely, however, that collisions have occurred and dead and injured birds simply fall into the river and go undetected. As you are probably aware, the vast majority of migrating birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

"Thank you for your consideration and assistance in the protection of birds as they migrate through Nebraska. Please contact me if I can be of assistance to you on this matter or if you have any questions. Thanks."

Robert R. Harms
Fish and Wildlife Biologist
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
203 West Second Street
Grand Island, NE 68801