Bird-window collisions in the summer breeding season

PeerJ. 2014 Jun 26;2:e460. doi: 10.7717/peerj.460. eCollection 2014.


Birds that reside in urban settings face numerous human-related threats to survival, including mortality from bird-window collisions (BWCs). Our current understanding of this issue has largely been driven by data collected during spring and fall migration, and patterns of collision mortality during the summer breeding season remain relatively unexplored. We assessed BWCs during four breeding seasons (2009-2012) at a site in northwestern Illinois, USA, by comparing the abundance, richness, migratory class, and age of the species living around buildings to species mortally wounded by window collisions. We also systematically assessed the daily timing of BWCs throughout the breeding season. We documented BWCs in 4 of 25 (16%) species and 7 of 21 (33%) species in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The relationship between BWCs and abundance depended on age. For adults, BWCs were highest in the least abundant species, e.g., Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus), and lowest in species with high abundance values, e.g., Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina). For juveniles, mortality was greatest for the most abundant species, and the American Robin (Turdus migratorius) accounted for 62% of all juvenile carcasses. Early in the breeding season, collision mortality was restricted to adults of Long-distance Migrants, whereas juveniles of all three migratory guilds (Long-distance and Short-distance Migrants and Permanent Residents) died at windows from late June through early August. Daily mortality for all species was highest between sunrise-1600 h and lowest from 1600 h-sunrise the next day. Generally, the species observed as carcasses matched birds considered a 'high risk' for BWCs, e.g., Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), and those considered 'low risk' were not observed as carcasses, e.g., Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea). Our results suggest that the number of BWCs during the breeding season does not necessarily increase with abundance, but rather appears related to variation among species and age classes, which may have important implications on the population health of affected species. The mechanisms driving these differences are unknown, but may be related reproductive behavior, flight speed, distance movements, and dispersal patterns.

Keywords: Avian mortality; Bird-window collisions; Breeding birds; Buildings; Glass; Human threats; Urban ecology; Window collision.

Grant support

MEC received funding through a Summer Research Fellowship at Augustana College. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.