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Georgia Audubon receives grant to boost programs reducing bird-building collisions

Window film reduces bird-building collisions by making the glass appear less transparent. (Photo by Adam Betuel.)

By Hannah E. Jones

Each year, an estimated 365 million or more birds die in the U.S. from colliding with buildings, often distracted and confused by a city’s bright lights, reflective surfaces and developed spaces. Georgia Audubon was recently selected for a $50,000 grant from the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) to help reduce this mortality rate and make Georgia more bird-friendly. 

The funds will expand the nonprofit’s Project Safe Flight and Lights Out Georgia programs, which are focused on reducing collision-related bird deaths, by extending their efforts to the Georgia coast. For the last four years, the Atlanta-based environmental nonprofit has received grants from DCF to support its collision-reduction efforts.

Through Project Safe Flight Georgia, volunteers patrol certain routes during peak bird migration periods to collect birds that have died or were injured after flying into buildings. Since its 2015 launch, over 2,800 birds of 119 species have been collected. 

Lights Out Georgia is an initiative to encourage homeowners and commercial properties to turn off their lights for migrating birds, ranging from March 15 to May 31 and Aug. 15 to Nov. 15. Bright lights can confuse resident and migrating birds as they pass over cities, and they could become stuck in beams of light where they circle — disoriented and exhausted.

“We are interested in exploring the opportunities that exist surrounding light reduction, how we may tie into sea turtle conservation and other light-reduction efforts along the coast, as well as to better understand what our data tell us about protection and management opportunities along our coastline,” Georgia Audubon Director of Conservation Adam Betuel said in a press release.

The migratory Tree Swallows rest on sea oats. (Photo by Adam Betuel.)

The recent DCF grant will be used to further research bird collisions through Project Safe Flight, in addition to identifying buildings with high accident rates and installing window film. The sticker is applied to the outside of the window, displaying a grid-like pattern with small dots arranged so the glass appears less transparent to the nearby avian population.

The team will also create a mapping system that breaks down key stopover sites — where migratory birds rest during their travels — along the coast. Georgia’s coastline is critical for migratory bird species in North America, with an estimated 900 million birds migrating over Georgia each year. A significant amount of that traffic happens along the coast. 

For example, species migrating in the spring from the Neotropical region — Central America, the Caribbean and South America — often rely on the area as their first stop following a transoceanic flight. In the fall, the state’s barrier islands and marshlands are critical for the winged populations, offering food and shelter. 

Georgia Audubon will work with several partners to achieve these program goals, including Kyle Horton at Colorado State University’s AeroEco Lab, the Jekyll Island Authority and others.

These statewide avian-related efforts are key for the long-term health and survival of bird populations because, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, three billion birds have disappeared from North America since 1970. To learn more about Georgia Audubon’s bird-building collision programs, click here.

Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.


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