LINCOLN, NEB. - As the weather warms and the days get longer, hundreds of bird species are making their way north for spring migration.

They travel through cities as large as New York and Chicago, as well as through countless midwestern towns, including many throughout Nebraska. The journey can be treacherous one, as each year upwards of 100 million birds die to collisions and window strikes.

“The prevailing opinion amongst ornithologists is that one of the largest sources of anthropogenic mortality amongst birds is collisions with windows and towers,” Bob Zink, Professor of Natural Resources, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said.

Bob Zink works as a Professor in Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and serves as a Curator of Zoology for the Nebraska State Museum. Each year, he and his team collect numerous samples of birds involved in window strikes.

Allison Johnson works in the school Biological Sciences and explains how these strikes occur.

“They’re being attracted to buildings that are lit up, big swaths of glass, where they see their natural habitat being reflected back at them,” Johnson said. 

Birds are also attracted to buildings with lights left on overnight, similar to bugs on a porch light in summer.

But it isn’t just Lincoln or Omaha where these incidents occur. Many county courthouses are beams of light in dark rural areas. They can happen at those, and just about anywhere else, with noticeable light.

“It’s not the scale of New York City, but you’re still going to have these bright spots where birds are coming in,” Johnson said. “People also leave out food and so that increaseS their encounter rate with buildings that are potential dangers.”

Many ornithologists believe cats and collisions to be the two biggest dangers to birds, but what about wind turbines?

“In my opinion, wind turbines are trivial to birds,” Zink said. “They are dangerous to some raptors, but kill attributed to wind turbines in migrant birds, is trivial to cats and windows.”

While buildings and towers pose dangers, there are solutions.

“The National Audobon Society has guidelines for architects for buildings in big cities with lights and birds coming through, so it’s much more cost-effective and safer to design buildings that are bird safe in the first place,” Zink said.

“Thinking about where your buildings and the way the light is reflecting into the buildings, is all very important in how we’re building things,” Johnson said.