Bird brains

This month the Twin Cities became a safer place for migrating birds. The Department of Natural Resources' Nongame Wildlife Program, in cooperation with other conservation groups, launched the Lights Out Twin Cities Project, an effort to reduce building collisions from birds that migrate during the night in the spring and fall. According to the DNR, millions of birds die each year from flying into highly reflective or brightly lit buildings, or drop dead from exhaustion after circling a bright lights for hours.

The project, similar to programs in New York, Toronto, and Chicago, asks that tall buildings dim or turn off all unnecessary lighting during peak nighttime bird migration hours—midnight until sunrise from March through May. Minneapolis' Wells Fargo Building and the Accenture Building have both signed on. Street-level lighting would be unaffected.

"Reducing bird deaths from collisions will have a positive effect on bird conservation," states Mark Martell, director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Minnesota. "The Lights Out program costs building owners or managers little or nothing to implement and will save energy and money at the same time it saves birds."

Volunteers will also be collecting dead birds around highly trafficked buildings along the West Bank and both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul for further research.