Keep migratory birds safe this fall

Indigo Bunting, Lake Erie Nature & Science Center

Every spring and fall, millions of birds migrate through Ohio on their way between their breeding and overwintering grounds. During migration birds can travel hundreds of miles in one night, even hummingbirds weighing an average of 3.5 grams. Most birds migrating to Central America will fly the 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico nonstop, leaving at dusk, which takes between 18 and 22 hours.

Lake Erie Nature & Science Center is the only wildlife rehabilitation facility in Cuyahoga County and commonly treats songbird injuries during migration. “A large percentage of the bird species we treat each year are due to window collisions,” says Tim Jasinski, Wildlife Rehabilitation Coordinator at the Center. “As an Ohio Lights Out partner, we aim to reduce collision-related deaths through wildlife education and rehabilitation.”

The Ohio Lights Out campaign, led by the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative, aims to reduce bird collision deaths by advising interested building managers on modifications to lighting and glass that would reduce dangers to migrating birds.

Here are a few ways you can help keep birds safe during fall migration:

Turn Off Your Lights

Most species of songbirds migrate at night, and lights on tall buildings or through windows can disorient them, causing many birds to strike windows or circle buildings until they fall from exhaustion. According to the Ohio Lights Out campaign, a recent study estimated that as many as 1 billion birds die each year in the United States from building collisions.

In Ohio, peak fall migration is Aug. 15 through Oct. 31. You can help songbirds by turning off your lights between midnight and dawn.

Make Your Home Safer

Window collisions are most commonly caused by the reflective characteristics of glass. Migrating birds unfamiliar with their surroundings may see their environment reflected in windows, mistaking them as an extension of the sky and trees. This inability to see glass causes birds to collide with windows at full speed, which is often fatal.

If you notice that birds are attracted to your windows, simply closing your blinds or curtains can make a difference. Companies such as CollidEscape or FeatherFriendly provide both commercial and residential window solutions in effort to prevent collisions and reduce songbird deaths.  

Monitor Pets

It is always important to monitor your pets and keep cats indoors, especially during baby wildlife and migratory seasons. Your supervision will not only protect songbirds and other wildlife, but keep your pets safe, too.

Become Involved

Other ways you can help to protect songbirds is through volunteering in community-led programs such as Ohio Lights Out, sharing educational resources with family and friends or making a donation to your local wildlife rehabilitation facility.

If you find an injured songbird this season, place it in a box with air holes and do not provide food or water. Call your local wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. Lake Erie Nature & Science Center offers wildlife services at no charge to the public and can be reached at 440-871-2900, ext. 204 or  

Morgan Paskert

Morgan Paskert is on staff at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.

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Volume 14, Issue 16, Posted 9:52 AM, 08.16.2022