Helping New York City Birds

Kind volunteers want NYC's migratory birds to soar!

Jul 19, 2021
Helping New York City Birds | Kind volunteers want NYC's migratory birds to soar!

Flying through the skies of New York with its famed tall skyscrapers, can be a real challenge for birds migrating from Central or South America to the Arctic Circle during the spring and fall migration seasons. Fortunately, more and more of them can reach their destination thanks to the help of kind humans.

Project Safe Flight is an initiative from New York City Audubon, a community that has been working to protect birds and their habitats in NYC for over 40 years. This project helps rescue injured birds that collide with the reflective glass so commonplace in many tall buildings. The project also identifies and documents which buildings are a potential threat to the flying travelers. 

The project members, a group of about 30 volunteers, spend their mornings looking for injured and dead birds across commercial centers in the Big Apple during bird-migration seasons, according to Curbed, a publication that is part of New York Magazine.

But their mission doesn't end there. They also quantify the scope of the issue on a database called dBird, which turns out to be extremely valuable in identifying problematic places. It also helps find new ways to prevent future collisions. 

Each time these volunteers find a survivor, they take it to the Wild Bird Fund. Its stated mission is: “To provide medical care and rehabilitation to native and passing migrant wildlife so that they can be released back into the wild.” Under their care, these feathered friends can rest, are properly fed, and also given the medical treatment that they need. 

Once the patients feel better, they spend time with other recovered birds until they become healthy enough to return to freedom. This takes place in the spring, when they are released in Central Park, or in the fall, when they are liberated out of town to ensure that their path doesn’t take them in the vicinity of lower Manhattan’s hazardous buildings. 

Nearly a billion birds are killed each year in the US from collisions with windows, the Audubon Society reveals. In New York City alone it is estimated that between 90 and 230 thousand migratory birds die yearly from window collisions, as detailed by Curbed. This occurs mostly during the spring and fall migration seasons, with more than 1,200 birds found stunned or dead last fall in the World Trade Center area, CBS New York reveals. 

Bright lights and reflective glass buildings attract and then confuse birds because they look through them and they think they are seeing the sky. So the dBird database is key to providing information on specific hotspots. It aims to reduce hazards to these lovely creatures by engaging policymakers into taking preventive steps. These include ensuring that visual indicators are added to tall buildings, or that lights are turned off at night during peak migration periods.

“There is a law in New York City that went into effect this year which requires new construction to use bird-friendly materials, but we still need to convince all of the existing buildings to retrofit and put mitigation in place,” said Kaitlyn Parkins, the senior conservation biologist for New York City Audubon to CBS New York. She explains that these measures can include using less reflective glass, or adding a granulated ceramic frit dot pattern which birds do perceive as a solid barrier.

If you are wondering how you can help change the current situation, you can file  a report on the dBird platform if you find a dead or injured bird in your region. Doing this will help support mother nature by saving the lives of many migratory birds, enabling them to arrive safely to their long-awaited destination.

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With a love for fashion, technology, self-development, nature and communication, Daiana is a freelance writer. She is the creator of an online community platform dedicated to providing inspiration and information on trends, developments and positive impact initiatives in the world of Sustainable Fashion.