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Chicago is a dangerous place for migrating birds. Here’s how you can help.

See an injured or dead bird? Ring the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors.

Sun rises over Chicago’s lakefront dotted with a row of buildings under a dawn sky with roughly a dozen birds in flight.
Fall migration season is here.
Shutterstock

The arrival of cold fall weather might be a real bummer for Chicago’s humans, but the season can prove downright deadly for the flocks of migrating birds passing through the city.

The famous skyline acts as a beacon for dozens of avian species traversing the Mississippi River Flyway at night. The artificial lights draw the birds away from their flight paths and often result in damaging collisions with glass buildings.

A study released by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology this year named Chicago as the nation’s most dangerous city for migrating birds, and this fall is expected to be another bad season.

A group of dedicated volunteers known as the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM) is working to rehabilitate as many injured birds as possible as well as catalog and study the less lucky feathered friends.

You can do your part to help, too. If you find an injured or dead bird, CBCM encourages you to do the following:

  • Call the CBCM hotline at (773) 988-1867
  • Be prepared to provide your name, phone number, and detailed location and condition of the bird
  • Try to contain the animal or move it to a protected area away from further harm
  • Check the organization’s website for additional tips on how to help injured birds

Although collecting dead animals might seem like a morbid, fruitless endeavor, the deceased or “salvaged” birds hold scientific value. The CBCM donates the animals to the Field Museum, which uses the carcasses to conduct ongoing species-specific and greater ecosystem research.

During peak migration, the organization also encourages Chicago residents to turn off their lights or draw their drapes closed before 11 p.m. and stay dark until one hour past dawn. A number of downtown buildings follow a similar schedule for exterior lighting as part of the city’s “Lights Out” initiative.

To further mitigate collisions, Chicago lawmakers are considering adopting a Bird-Friendly Building Ordinance that would apply to new buildings and major rehab projects. The proposed rules would limit the transparency and reflectivity of glass and mandate the use of subtly patterned or “fritted” glass in known collision trouble spots like office lobbies.

Learn more about the design ordinance on the initiative’s website.