Keep Migratory Birds Safe This Fall

September 16, 2020

Posted by Lake Erie Nature and 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 that weigh just 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, located in Bay Village, is the only wildlife rehabilitation facility in Cuyahoga County. Its staff 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 specialist at the center. “As an Ohio Lights Out partner, we aim to reduce collision-related deaths through wildlife education and rehabilitation.”

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 led by the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative, 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 the glass causes them to collide with the windows at full speed, which can often be 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 an effort to prevent collisions and reduce songbird deaths.  

Monitor pets

It is always important to monitor your pets while they are outdoors, 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 are 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 rehabber.

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 rehabber for assistance.

Lake Erie Nature & Science Center offers wildlife services at no charge to the public and can be reached at 440-871-2900, extension 204, or at wildlife@lensc.org.