Hundreds of songbirds were found dead on the ground of Chicago’s lakefront exhibition center this week after falling out of the sky due to a collision.
According to The Associated Press: Nearly 1,000 songbirds perished during the night after crashing into the McCormick Place Lakeside Center’s windows due to a deadly confluence of prime migration conditions, rain and the low-slung exhibition hall’s lights, and window-lined walls.
“It was just like a carpet of dead birds at the windows there,” said Willard, a retired bird division collections manager at the Chicago Field Museum, where his duties included administering, preserving, and cataloging the museum’s collection of 500,000 bird specimens as well as searching for bird strikes as part of migration research.
“A normal night would be zero to 15 (dead) birds. It was just kind of a shocking outlier to what we’ve experienced,” Willard said.
“In 40 years of keeping track of what’s happening at McCormick, we’ve never seen anything remotely on that scale.”
According to estimates from researchers, hundreds of millions of songbirds die from window strikes, and fall out of the sky each year.
A 2014 study from Scientists with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the number to be between 365 million and 988 million birds annually.
Bird strikes are becoming more common in US cities due to glass panels creating deadly barriers they cannot see.
Birds such as sparrows and warblers migrate at night, relying on stars to navigate.
Artificial lights from buildings and streetlights confuse birds, leading to window strikes.
In 2017, nearly 400 passerines became disoriented in a Galveston, Texas, skyscraper’s floodlights, resulting in a collision with buildings.
“Unfortunately, it is really common,” said Matt Igleski, executive director of the Chicago Audubon Society.
“We see this in pretty much every major city during spring and fall migration. This (the window strikes at McCormick Place) was a very catastrophic single event, but when you add it all up (across the country), it’s always like that.”
A large wave of songbirds took to the sky to migrate over Chicago on Wednesday evening.
The birds had been waiting for northerly winds to give them a boost south, according to aviation expert Temple.
But the unusually warm southern winds kept the birds from holding patterns.
“You had all these birds that were just raring to go, but they’ve been held up with this weird September and October with temperatures way above normal,” Temple said.
“You had this huge pack of birds take off.”
Temple said the birds swept south over Chicago, following the Lake Michigan shoreline and into a deadly maze of illuminated structures.
According to Willard, rain also forced the birds to drop to lower altitudes, where they found McCormick Place’s lights on.
A total of 964 birds died at the center.
A similar incident occurred last year when hundreds of migratory birds mysteriously fell from the sky while they were in mid-flight in Mexico.
The Daily Mail reported: Police were called after residents said the dead birds on the sidewalk in the Alvaro Obregon area of Cuauhtemoc, a city in the state of Chihuahua.
Shocking footage shows the cloud of yellow-headed blackbirds suddenly dropping to the ground.
Many of the flock are seen flying away, but many dozens were left lying dead on the street.
According to the local paper El Heraldo de Chihuahua, the vet who examined the dead blackbirds said they could have perished due to inhaling toxic fumes or electrocuted from power lines.
One user wrote:
“Looks more like the lead birds got confused; the dead birds look more like a result of a collision with the surface, given that the surviving members of the flock flew back up.”
The same year, a similar incident occurred in a seaside village in Wales when 200 birds mysteriously dropped dead from the sky.
Motorists who witnessed the birds said it was like watching “a horror film” when the starlings plummeted to the ground.