Bird Friendly Chicago identifies steps to reduce bird mortality in our city

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Annette Prince CBCM 630-841-7110
Judy Pollock CAS 847-962-7868

CHICAGO (October 12, 2023) The tragic death and injury of nearly a thousand birds at the McCormick Lakeside facility on October 5, and the thousands that are harmed yearly at downtown buildings, confirms Chicago’s unfortunate designation as the city posing the greatest threat to migratory birds in North America. Millions of birds travel through our area each year facing the hazards of urban lighting and glass building designs. The events at McCormick place are not isolated or even that unusual. Many more birds already have and will continue to perish in Chicago. The time has come for Chicago to take action to prevent this completely unnecessary and avoidable loss of life.

We are calling for:

  • participation of McCormick Place Lakeside Center and all downtown and lakefront buildings in the established and proven successful Lights Out program: light reduction from 11 pm through sunrise every night during migration seasons
  • full implementation of bird-friendly building requirements for new construction before the end of 2023
  • prioritizing retrofitting of existing buildings for bird safety

The one thousand dead birds found at McCormick Place on October 5 is a strong wakeup call. Bright interior and exterior lighting can disorient birds and attract them towards dangerous glass during their nighttime migrations. The events of last week point to the disastrous consequences of a building that will not turn lights out every night of spring and fall migration. We are calling for those managing the McCormick Place Lakeside facility, or, if necessary, the Governor of Illinois and the Mayor of Chicago, to take immediate and urgent action to require that interior lights at McCormick Place East be extinguished every night of migration. This can be accomplished if they require exhibitors to draw shades or turn out lights at night. These protections have been shown by Field Museum researchers to result in an 80% reduction in bird strikes at this building.

Under the right circumstances of heavy migration and adverse weather conditions, a building has the potential for mass casualties if
interior and/or exterior lights are not extinguished. Other buildings, particularly those adjoining the lake, river and green spaces in Chicago, that are not turning their lights out are one perfect storm away from becoming that building. Even if conditions do not bring thousands of birds, the hundreds or dozens of birds harmed each night of migration is a tragedy. A sobering accumulation of tens of thousands of bird strikes occurs throughout the Chicago area each year. The simple act of light reduction plays an important role in decreasing bird collisions and keeping the nights of migration darker and safer for birds.

As dramatic as these events caused by lighting are, the steady drip of mortality due to collisions with glass adds up to an even bigger total. Fortunately, there are numerous ways that windows can be bird collision proofed either during construction or after the fact. Bird-friendly design requirements for new construction were approved by City Council in 2020and have been widely reviewed. We call on the Mayor and the Department of Planning and Development to implement these long-overdue guidelines. While we wait, two nearby cities have used Chicago’s guidelines to implement these regulations. Each year of delay has resulted in the creation of more unsafe buildings that in their lifetime will needlessly kill tens of thousands of birds.

Finally, we as a city need to begin a conversation about how to solve the bigger problem of retrofitting the expanses of glass on 
existing buildings, especially those already known to be bird-killers. There are many new products on the market that are attractive and preserve the transparency of glass while effectively preventing bird collisions. What will induce the owners of buildings that are killing hundreds of birds each year to install these?

Bird Friendly Chicago:

Annette Prince, Director
Chicago Bird Collision Monitors

Matthew Igleski, Executive Director; Judy Pollock, President
Chicago Audubon Society

Edward Warden, President
Chicago Ornithological Society

Partners and Supporters:

Jerry Adelmann, President/CEO
Openlands

Eric Secker, President
Bird Conservation Network

Douglas Stotz, Senior Conservation Ecologist
Keller Science Action Center, Field Museum of Natural History

Jeanne Gang, founding principal and partner
Studio Gang

Seth Magle, Director
Urban Wildlife Institute, Lincoln Park Zoo

Michelle Parker, Vice President
National Audubon Society

Erin Amico. President and CEO
Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Andrew Farnsworth Ph.D. Visiting Scientist 
Center for Avian Populations Studies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Emily Tallo, Ren Dean, ZelleTenorio, Addie Shrodes, Coordinators
Feminist Bird Club Chicago

The organizers of Chicago BIPOC Birders

Roberta Asher, Board Chair
International Crane Foundation

Andrea Tolzmann, President
Illinois Ornithological Society 

Benjamin Cox, Executive Director
Friends of the Forest Preserves

Paul Botts, Executive Director
The Wetlands Initiative

The Climate Reality Project- Chicago Metro Chapter

Molly Adams, Founder, 
Feminist Bird Club

Heidi Natura, CEO 
Living Habitats LLC

Jill Riddell, founder, operator
Office of Modern Composition

John Sprovieri, President
Kane County Audubon

Stephen Mitten, SJ, Senior Lecturer
Loyola University Chicago School of Environmental Sustainability

Joel S. Brown, Distinguished Professor Emeritus
University of Illinois at Chicago

Jacob Drucker, Ph.D. Candidate,
University of Chicago

Christopher J Whelan
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago

Rita Renwick, President
Will County Chapter, Illinois Audubon Society

Mark Luscombe, President
Fort Dearborn Chapter, Illinois Audubon Society

John Sprovieri, President
Kane County Audubon

Dennis Endicott, President
Peoria Audubon Society

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