In 2016 the South Shore Audubon Society, along with New York City Audubon, completed work on a grant studying offshore wind energy. The grant of $10,000, made possible by the Moore Charitable Foundation and the National Audubon Society, was a joint project of the two chapters to study the possible effects of the proposed Long Island—New York City Offshore Wind Project. This offshore wind farm, currently in its preliminary planning stages, is to be located approximately 14 nautical miles due south of Nassau County. If constructed, it may include up to 140 wind turbines, producing enough energy for over 200,000 homes. It has the potential to be the largest offshore wind project in the country.
Grant funds were used to analyze documents produced by the companies and agencies pursuing the wind project, and suggestions have been made as to studies and analyses that should be further undertaken to protect avian species that might be affected by the wind turbines. The consultant hired to undertake the study, Wing Goodale of the Biodiversity Research Institute of Portland, Maine, completed and delivered a detailed report prepared for our two Audubon chapters. His report, Offshore Wind Energy Development and Birds in New York: Managing risk and identifying data gaps, reviews the extant scientific data on the possible impacts of offshore wind facilities on birds. Mr. Goodale’s paper, the core scientific product of our grant, should serve as a solid briefing paper useful to individual Audubon members, Audubon chapters, other environmentalists, and the general public who will be forming their opinions and positions regarding the construction of this and other offshore wind farms.
Subjects covered in the final report include: Adverse effects of Offshore Wind Energy Development (OWED) on birds, avian vulnerability to OWED, exposure of birds to OWED, New York birds and OWED, mitigating adverse effects, data gaps, and recommendations on how to fill those data gaps. The South Shore Audubon Society and New York City Audubon want to give this important paper, treating these crucial topics related to wind energy and bird conservation, wide dissemination.
It is hoped that the results of our offshore wind energy grant will spur needed conversation and action on the issue, making sure that if these facilities are built off our shores to produce desperately needed renewable energy they are located in areas least likely to harm birds.
Paul Friedman is a resident of Lido Beach who has been helping to monitor the Piping Plovers and other nesting shorebirds as a volunteer with the Town of Hempstead's Department of Conservation and Waterways. He put a PDF presentation together in the hopes that it will help educate people about the Piping Plovers (and other Birds of Lido Beach) and build some empathy for them. For additional information, see www.goodeggnjny.org/beach-nesting-birds/.
SSAS and other chapters of the Long Island Audubon Council were founding members of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, which seeks to save the 840-acre island as a National Wildlife Refuge before the Animal Disease Center is closed and the 90% undeveloped island is sold by our federal government.
(Written by Brien Weiner for our September 2017 newsletter)
Fall migration is underway, and with it an increase in the number of birds colliding with windows. Up to one billion birds die each year from window strikes in the United States. Windows are second only to cats as a source of human-related bird mortality. Although skyscrapers and programs like Lights Out New York are the subject of most surveys and news reports, skyscrapers account for less than 1% of the birds killed in window collisions. According to a study by S. R. Loss et al., the majority of collisions occur with the nation’s many small buildings, with residences 1–3 stories accounting for 44% of fatalities, and buildings 4–11 stories accounting for 56%. In addition, the birds that fly into windows, seem to be only temporarily stunned, and then fly off, often die shortly thereafter from bruises, broken bones, and internal bleeding.
Why do birds collide with windows? During the day, birds see reflections of vegetation or see through glass to potted plants or vegetation on the other side. At night, nocturnal migrants (including most songbirds) fly into lighted windows. Some collisions are due to chance, but more often the birds are attracted to the lights for reasons not entirely understood. Lights divert nocturnal migrants from their original path, especially in foggy or cloudy conditions, and they will circle lighted structures, colliding with them and each other. Finally, birds may see their own reflection in a window and attack it, more often in spring when territoriality is high.
Regardless of cause, there are many simple measures we can take to safeguard our windows for birds. First, identify dangerous windows, such as large picture windows, paired windows at right angles, and windows near feeders. Look at windows from a bird’s point of view for vegetation or sky reflected by, or visible through, the windows. Past recommendations about safe distances for feeders outside windows have been discredited; if you have windows near feeders, treat the windows.
The simplest measures are to close curtains and blinds when possible to break up the illusion of clear passage or reflected habitat, and to move house plants away from windows.
Other measures involve marking windows as follows. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “To deter small birds, vertical markings on windows need to be spaced no more than 4 inches apart and horizontal markings no more than 2 inches apart across the entire window. (If hummingbirds are a problem, the spacing should be reduced to a 2-inch by 2-inch grid.) All marking techniques should be applied to the outside of the window.” The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) further suggests that white stripes are more effective, as they are visible against more backgrounds.
There are various products for marking windows; the following are inexpensive, durable, and easy to apply or install:
Further information, including suggestions for remodeling and new construction, can be found on the Cornell Lab and ABC websites. The ABC provides a list of successfully tested homeowner and architectural products with links for ordering. (See https://www.allaboutbirds.org/why-birds-hit-windows-and-how-you-can-help-prevent-it/ and https://abcbirds.org/get-involved/bird-smart-glass/#unique-identifier1.)
Since birds can see ultraviolet light and humans cannot, emerging bird-deterrent technologies using UV light potentially provide a solution to the bird-collision conundrum. UV windows would be transparent to humans but alert birds to the potential danger. Decals, liquid, and specially coated glass that reflect UV light are available, but according to FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program), “the effectiveness of existing products is being challenged by field studies. A great deal of research still needs to be done before they can be rolled out as a bird conservation/window collision panacea.”
If you find a bird dazed from a window collision with no external injury, and it can perch on a branch unassisted, leave it to recover on its own. If the bird has a noticeable injury, get it to a rehabilitator as quickly as possible. Broken bones need treatment within minutes or hours to heal properly without surgery. Follow the instructions on the Cornell Lab website given above, or contact Volunteers for Wildlife (516-674-0982) and follow the instructions on their website (www.volunteersforwildlife.org).
An ounce of prevention, however — a little common sense and a little creativity — can go a long way to protect our feathered friends from colliding with windows and to increase their chances of survival.