Monday, December 7, 2009

Weekly News Feature - Chicago Bird Collision Monitors and Lights Out Chicago

(My wife has asked to become part of the Nutty Birder blog team and will be doing weekly posts on birds/birding in the news. Enjoy! - Rob)

One of the new features on the Nutty Birder blog is a short weekly post discussing a recent news story. The first article we’d like to talk about appeared in the Chicago Tribune last month and highlights an all-volunteer group called the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors.

Started in 2003 and operating as part of the Chicago Audubon Society, the CBCMs patrol a two-square mile area of downtown Chicago as early as 4am in an effort to rescue downed migratory birds. As noted in the article, “With enough volunteers to dispatch a band of 8 to 12 rescuers an hour before daylight, seven days a week, mid-August to mid-November, and again mid-March to mid-June, some 40 percent of the birds are saved, their wounds tended to, feathers unruffled, let loose in the wilds. So far this fall, the count stands at some 1,500 downtown rescues.”

The group consists of folks in a wide range of professions, including (but not limited to) a speech pathologist, a musician who plays with the Joffrey Ballet, an ornithologist from Kenya, and several architects and lawyers. Even individuals who aren’t “officially” part of the organization play an important role in helping these birds. The article mentions a homeless man who keeps the CBCM’s hot line number in his pocket so he can use phones at churches to call the CBCM if he finds a downed bird.

The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors do fantastic work. Another important initiative happening in the area is a program called “Lights Out Chicago”. During migration periods, the lights in several high-rise buildings in downtown Chicago are shut off at 11pm. At one particular site, McCormick Place, bird-crash deaths have been reduced by more than half since the lights were occasionally turned off starting in 1998. On nights when all the lights are out, fatalities drop by 80 percent.

Isn’t it amazing how a few volunteers can make such a huge difference in one of the largest cities in the U.S.?

The full article from the Chicago Tribune can be found here:,0,6325117.story?page=1

To learn more about the Lights Out Chicago program, check out the Chicago Audubon Society’s website: Also included on this site is a “Tool Kit” that can help you start or become involved with a Lights Out program in your city.

Have a great week!


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