July 12, 2024

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A thousand birds crash into a building in Chicago in 24 hours: The Convention Center is a veritable bird graveyard |  outside

A thousand birds crash into a building in Chicago in 24 hours: The Convention Center is a veritable bird graveyard | outside

More than a thousand birds died on Thursday when they flew into a convention center in the American city of Chicago. This was reported by the British newspaper The Guardian. Experts say the glass building is largely invisible to animals that currently fly south en masse to spend the winter.

A few days later, volunteers were still finding dead animals in a radius of about two and a half miles around McCormick Place, the largest convention center in the United States. These birds include Tennessee warblers, hermit thrushes, and other songbird species that crashed into the building. Bird conservationists expect to find more dead birds in the area.

According to the experts who the British newspaper spoke to, the animals were on their way from Canada to Central and South America to spend the winter, but they ended up in Chicago due to weather conditions and became disoriented due to light pollution and large buildings. Glass windows. Especially large windows are very dangerous for birds: they do not recognize the mirror effect of the windows. While people look out the window of a building and see trees reflected in the street, for example, birds literally see trees.

A study conducted by the famous Smithsonian Institute in 2014 stated that about 600 million birds die every year due to flying on windows in the United States. Bird conservationists estimate the actual number is closer to a billion.

Chicago Field Museum staff inspect dead birds.  (05/10/23)
Chicago Field Museum staff inspect dead birds. (05/10/23) © AP

An estimated 1.5 million birds flew over the North American city from Wednesday to Thursday, which is located on the annual bird migration route. That’s why the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois have taken various measures to reduce the number of fatal accidents involving birds.

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Because light pollution is a major factor, Chicago has a “Lights Out Program,” which voluntarily dims or turns off building lights at night. Research conducted in 2021 — at the convention center the birds flew into this week — shows that dimming half the lights could lead to up to 11 times fewer collisions. The Convention Center also participates in this program, but due to the activities taking place in the building, the lights are not (always) dimmed.

In addition to the voluntary light abatement program, there are also other ways to reduce the number of collisions. Applying dots or patterns to windows can reduce the mirror effect mentioned above, allowing birds to better judge whether there is a safe passage.

In 2020, a municipal bylaw requiring “bird-friendly design” for new buildings was introduced, but has not yet gone into effect. Also at the state level, a law was passed in 2021 requiring bird-friendly designs for renovation and new construction of government buildings in Illinois.

McCormick Place Lakeside Center in Chicago, United States.
McCormick Place Lakeside Center in Chicago, United States. © Getty Images