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  • Writer's pictureSara Kross

Heavy migration traffic and bad weather are a dangerous combination: Bird collisions in New York City (new paper!)

Billions of birds are thought to die each year as a result of flying into windows- and NYC is a hotspot of bird collisions. The city's iconic skyline is a source of light pollution that attracts birds to the city, leading over 250,000 birds to fly into those same glass towers each year.

Katherine Chen and Sara Kross recently published a paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology on understanding the factors that drive bird collisions with buildings in NYC.

We found that bird migration traffic intensity (the number of birds flying through the city each night) combine with unfavourable weather conditions to increase the number of birds that collide with buildings. Winds that drive birds toward the city (winds from the west that force birds closer to the coastline) and headwinds, along with conditions that lower visibility lead to the highest rates of bird collisions.

We worked with NYC Audubon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's BirdCast team, and colleagues at American Bird Conservancy, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Great Hollow Nature Preserve & Ecological Research Center.

The work will be used by our partners to develop more targeted messaging around lights out programs in the city- pinpointing the nights that are likely to be most dangerous for birds so that building managers can turn out their lights (which can reduce collisions). The long-term solution to this widespread problem will lie with using bird safe glass treatments and reducing overall light pollution from buildings- but our results will lead to immediate action.

The work was also featured on the Applied Ecologist, a blog by the British Ecological Society

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