Melissa Breyer / AP
Early Tuesday morning, Melissa Breyer set out to do her usual volunteer work of collecting the bodies of dead migratory birds that collided with skyscrapers in downtown Manhattan.
This morning was much worse than usual. In just over an hour, Breyer picked up 226 small lifeless bodies from the sidewalks around the World Trade Center. 35 others died but fell on inaccessible awnings. Thirty of them were still alive and needed veterinary help and were placed in the care of a wild bird rehabilitation center.
“When you have 226 dead migratory birds knocked out of a morning’s windows, it’s hard to put them all together in one photo,” she wrote on Twitter, with a photo showing dozens of birds, including lots of warblers, in all shades of yellow, brown and gray.
“Lights can be turned off, windows can be treated. Please do something ” she pleaded.
In New York City, between 90,000 and 230,000 birds are killed each year when they collide with building glass, according to research from NYC Audubon, the group that runs Project Safe Flight, the volunteer operation at which Breyer participated.
Nationally, a 2019 study found that the number of bird deaths caused by building collisions could reach one billion.
Fatal collisions increase twice a year during migration seasons, when birds migrate through major cities to and from their winter habitats in Central and South America.
“Birds are diverted from their path by light pollution. They are often attracted to bright city lights,” said Sirena Lao, a researcher at the San Francisco Bird Observatory, speaking to NPR earlier this week. year. “So the birds will deviate from their path and fly towards these cities, which will lead them to even more danger.”
As a result, conservationists have long advocated for dimming unnecessary lights during migratory seasons – a call that was renewed this week by bird groups in New York after the mass death on Tuesday.
Wild Bird Fund, a New York-based rehabilitation center, received more than 70 injured birds on Tuesday, including those collected by Breyer.
“There is a simple measure that could be implemented today to reduce the staggering bird mortality that occurs in our city: turn off all unnecessary lights from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. until November 16” the group tweeted.
The World Trade Center responded to Breyer’s tweets, thanking her for bringing the matter to the school’s attention.
“We are actively encouraging our office tenants to turn off their lights at night and lower their shades when possible and are exploring additional precautions,” the company wrote.
Jordan Barowitz, spokesperson for the Durst Organization, co-developer of One World Trade Center, told The Associated Press in an email: “The first 200 feet of One WTC are enclosed in non-reflective glass fins. . This design was chosen. because it dramatically reduces bird strikes which mostly occur below 200 feet and are often caused by reflective glass. “