Author: Melissa Fratello, Executive Director, Buffalo Audubon Society
If you’ve spent any time along Buffalo’s waterfront, you’re likely to have had some company of the avian variety. Birds love Buffalo as much as we do. Hundreds of species, from gulls to warblers to hawks, flock here by the thousands year-round, to take advantage of the food sources, habitat and breeding areas that can be found in and around the Niagara River Corridor. They are as much a part of our landscape, of the Buffalonian experience, as Shark Girl, or the smell of Cheerios wafting through the air.
The river corridor has been designated by National Audubon as a globally significant Important Birding Area. It supports 19 gull species alone, like the graceful Bonaparte’s Gull, which can be seen in numbers ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 in ONE DAY during the winter months. For those who don’t get real stoked about gulls, this region also serves as a migratory path, or flyway, for thousands of songbirds and birds of prey. It’s truly a superhighway in the sky. Still not impressed? Well, if you just don’t give a hoot about birds, try and look at it this way. Birds serve a critical role as an indicator species, meaning that studying their patterns and behaviors has been proven to predict environmental health, impacts of climate change, and ultimately the health and quality of life of human beings. Also, they eat mosquitos. And, some sleep on the wing, and use tools, and can recognize individual humans… I could go on.
So, this is all pretty cool, right? Well, yeah, except that every year, roughly one billion (yes, billion) birds needlessly die after colliding with buildings during nighttime migration, or into reflective windows by day. Such an undignified death! The reality is that we have developed nearly all the river corridor for every human use – industry, power generation, housing and commercial, creating a gauntlet of deadly obstacles along birds’ path. We could be much better neighbors by adopting a few small habits that are of little to no impact to us (unless you like to waste energy and spend more money on electricity), and save thousands of birds every year.
Most of the migratory birds that fly through our region are flying by night, navigating with the night sky (note – if you need a good read, “Living on the Wind” by Scott Weidensaul takes a fascinating look at bird migration). Bright artificial lights not only cause direct window strikes, they disorient and fatigue surviving birds, making them vulnerable to other threats. You can make a difference by turning out your lights at home, and encouraging the managers of your place of work or residential community to do the same. Exterior lights and flood lights, interior lights on higher floors are most harmful. It’s also good practice to fully shield exterior lighting so that it is downward facing. Taking these steps during spring and fall migrations, from March – June and August – November drastically reduces light-related bird fatalities.
Help us spread the word about making Buffalo a bird-safe city. Follow this link to our Facebook page for a tip-sheet on the measures you can take to save and support the lives of our birds, and while you’re there, like and follow our page. We’re working on a Birds and Brews series, Let’s Go Birding Together walks to celebrate the LGBTQIA community of birders, and a Master Birder program to be launched in 2019!
For more about the IBA, check out this link.
Want to learn more stuff about birds (of course you do)? Check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s page.
See what other cities are doing about dimming lights during the bird migration season.