By Dottie Head, Director of Membership and Communications
Atlanta Audubon has been making steady progress on reducing the number of bird-building collisions in the metro area and in educating the public, commercial building owners, architects, builders, and others about the problem of bird-building collisions. Thanks to the leadership of Adam Betuel, director of conservation, multiple success stores that are making Atlanta a safer place for migrating and resident birds.
Each year, an estimated 365 million to one billion birds perish in the U.S. after colliding with buildings. A recent study by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology listed Atlanta as a high-risk city for the potential for bird-building related collisions. The Cornell study ranked metropolitan areas where, due to a combination of light pollution and geography, birds are at the greatest risk of becoming attracted to and disoriented by lights and crashing into buildings. Published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the study combined satellite data showing light pollution levels with weather radar measuring bird migration density. Chicago, Houston, and Dallas ranked one through three during both fall and spring migrations. Because many birds alter their migration routes between spring and fall, rankings of the most-dangerous cities change slightly with the season, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. During spring migration of birds pass through the central U.S., so cities primarily in the middle of the country top the most-dangerous list for that season. Fall bird migration tends to be intense along the heavily light-polluted Atlantic seaboard, which is why four eastern cities make the list in autumn. Atlanta ranks fourth most dangerous in the fall and ninth during spring migration
The first step towards solving the bird-building collision problem in Atlanta is understanding it. With that in mind, Atlanta Audubon launched Project Safe Flight Atlanta in fall 2015. Since then, volunteers with Atlanta Audubon Society’s Project Safe Flight Atlanta have been patrolling the streets during both spring and fall migrations, looking for birds that have been killed or injured after colliding with buildings. More than 1,400 birds, representing 106 different species, have been collected since monitoring began, and Adam is always seeking additional volunteers to help monitor routes during migration.
In 2017, Atlanta Audubon introduced the Lights Out Atlanta program to help mitigate bird-building collisions by encouraging commercial property owners and homeowners to turn off or reduce outdoor lighting during peak migration periods of March 15 through May 31 in spring and August 15 to November 15 in fall. Since then, more than 300 homeowners and 15 commercial properties have pledged to turn the lights out for migrating birds. You can help by signing the pledge and encouraging your friends, neighbors, and places of employment to join this effort.
Adam has also been working with Atlanta area green building experts to introduce them to bird-friendly design concepts. This November, Adam will be co-presenting a session on “Bird-friendly Design in the City in the Forest” at the GreenBuild International Conference and Expo at the World Congress Center. Adam will be co-presenting along with Christine Sheppard of the American Bird Conservancy and Matt Kikosicki of Miller Hull, an architectural firm focused on green design. They will be presenting on bird collisions, Project Safe Flight Atlanta's work, the new Kendeda Building at Georgia Tech, and how to design and retrofit bird-friendly buildings in urban areas. This is a great opportunity to share Atlanta Audubon's successes on an international scale.
Finally, Atlanta Audubon has been fortunate in recent years to make five buildings more bird-friendly thanks to generous grants from the Disney Conservation Fund. The Visitor's Center at Sawnee Mountain Preserve in Forsyth County and the Trees Atlanta Kendeda Center in Atlanta are the latest two buildings to be treated with CollidEscape film to reduce bird-building collisions. This brings the total list of treated buildings to five as the latest buildings join Melvin L. Newman Wetlands Center, Chattahoochee Nature Center, and the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. In 2020 Atlanta Audubon will install CollidEscape film at Southface and one other Atlanta location.
“Thanks to the collective efforts and cooperation of groups like Atlanta Audubon, the American Bird Conservancy, Southface, the Disney Conservation Fund, and many other partners, we are working to make Atlanta a more bird-friendly city for both migratory and resident birds,” says Adam Betuel. “There are hundreds of other light awareness programs and initiatives taking place across the United States and Canada, and collectively we are working to educate citizens, building owners, architects, builders, and others about innovative solutions and sustainable building design. We have a ways to go, but I’m hopeful that one day bird-friendly buildings will be the norm, not the exception.”