Migration is a harrowing time for birds. In the fall and spring, billions of birds embark on journeys between their summer breeding areas and wintering grounds. During these journeys – which can be thousands of miles long – birds encounter numerous hazards, and the overall bird mortality rate increase.
Autumn migration is particularly risky. In the fall, millions of newly hatched birds must navigate migration for the first time. Completing a long journey south – an astounding feat for any bird – is especially dangerous for inexperienced birds.
While risks will never be fully eliminated, there are actions humans can take to help make migration safer.
1. Be Careful to Turn Off or Modify Lights
Birds primarily migrate at night, and many use the light of the stars to guide their way. Brightly lit homes and city blocks can easily disorient birds and make navigation challenging.
Disruptions to birds’ instinctual paths can lead them to take circuitous, energy-burning routes. After expending unnecessary energy, birds may be tempted to stop and rest in dangerous urban environments.
If you live or manage properties in an urban or suburban area, be mindful of the lights you keep on at night during migration season. The simple act of turning off a few lights can have a hugely positive impact on birds as they migrate.
If your external lights are necessary for security, choose ones with shields that prevent the light from projecting upwards and into the path of migrating birds.
2. Treat Windows to Prevent Collisions
Each year, over 300 million birds die from window collisions in the U.S. More than half of all collisions occur at homes and small businesses and the majority happen during fall migration.
Collisions occur with such frequency because birds can’t see glass. They either see a reflection of the surrounding habitat (and mistake the glass for the habitat, itself) or they erroneously see a clear view to the other side of the structure.
To help make windows safer for birds, home and business owners can use discreet but effective window treatments in areas where collisions frequently occur. Such treatments reduce surface reflection and make glass more visible to migrating birds.
3. Keep Pets Under Control
Migration exhausts birds and lowers their ability to avoid predation. In this more vulnerable state, threats they could normally avoid may become existential.
One such threat comes from outdoor cats, who kill over 3 billion birds in the U.S. annually. A majority of deaths can be attributed to feral cats, but domesticated cats also do their fair share of damage. A pet cat with regular access to the outdoors kills an average of 8 birds every year. That may not seem like much, but over 25 million pet cats go outdoors, so the total number adds up quickly. Dogs also kill birds, though to a lesser extent.
While keeping pets contained and under control at all times (for their safety as well as the birds) is always recommended, migration is an especially important time to do so.
4. Offer Additional Support During Extreme Weather
Fall is a time of fickle weather, especially here in the Great Lakes area. One day it can be blisteringly hot and the next it can be snowing. Extreme heat, drought, severe storms, blizzards, and more can create havoc for migrating birds.
Luckily, humans can provide birds with some additional support during inclement weather. Simple acts, like clearing snow so birds can access food, providing shallow watering areas during droughts, and taking birds injured by storms to wildlife rehabilitation centers, can greatly increase the odds of a successful migration.
Partner with Migratory Bird Management for a Safe Migration Season This Fall
Birds are an integral part of our delicate ecological system. Doing our part to keep birds safe as they navigate our built habitat is an easy way to conserve and protect the environment.
The Migratory Bird Management team has extensive experience helping businesses make their buildings safer for birds as they migrate. We offer consulting services and install bird-friendly lighting and window collision solutions to protect birds on their migration paths.
For more information, contact us to schedule a site evaluation.