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Birds and Buildings: A Deadly Combination


By Dan Hounsell Facilities Management
Buildings and birds

Birds and buildings generally don’t mix. Facility managers tend to be most worried about measures that will keep nesting birds from damaging buildings and bothering occupants. Occasionally, though, the mix of birds and buildings turn deadly.

An estimated 1,000-1,500 birds flew into downtown Philadelphia buildings in a 3½-block radius of Center City recently during Stephen Maciejewski, a volunteer for Audubon Pennsylvania, called a “perfect storm” of avian calamity. That could mean thousands more likely perished elsewhere in the city.

Between 5 and 8 a.m., he collected 400 birds — an astonishing number, he said.

“There were so many, I was picking up five at a time," Maciejewski said. “One guy from building maintenance dumped 75 living and dead birds in front of me as if it were a collection."

It appears that weather events lined up for the worst during what was likely the peak of migratory birds' flight from Canada, Maine, Upstate New York, and elsewhere toward Central and South America. A sudden plunge in temperatures could have prompted the birds to start their flights en masse.

In Philadelphia, low cloud cover, light rain and a full moon all could have pushed the birds lower. Birds flying from remote Northern habitats might have little experience with glass. As they reached Philly in the dark, the birds would have been attracted to the lights inside the buildings. Some skyscrapers have indoor atriums, which could have led birds to think they could land there.

On any given morning, street trees reflect in the glass, making it appear they are inside buildings.

Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

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