Saturday, December 24, 2011

Birds crash into parking lots in Utah

Last week I read a remarkable story in USA Today that you can read in full here:

It seems that thousands of migrant grebes somehow mistook parking lots for ponds or lakes, attempting to land in them and instead smashing into the paved surface. The theory put forth is that clouds over the area, and especially over the lights of the parking lots, apparently made it seem as if they were bodies of water, perhaps reflecting the moonlight, waiting for the grebes to land in. No humans were injured and no damage took place other than thousands of birds being killed in these terrible crash landings.

The story takes a more positive turn when it comes to the efforts of wildlife officials and many volunteers. They actually saved thousands of grebes by collecting them from the parking lots the next morning and bringing them back to an actual suitable habitat. While I am guessing some may have been injured and needed some medical attention, many more may have been stunned and simply needed time, like some of the lucky birds that survive window strikes. Others were likely confused and dazed, unable to determine a course of action, and putting them back to where they belong was a huge help.

This tale makes you wonder how often events like this occur without our knowledge. This was a horrible accident brought on by unique conditions - how often do similar situations occur and how can we prevent such events in the future? We likely need to reevaluate leaving lighting such as this on at night as it is often a cause of bird mortality. It would save many birds while also saving everyone some money on the power bill and reducing our usage of fossil fuels, a winning situation for everyone involved.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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