Art is for the birds

Audubon Minnesota volunteer Brian Goodspeed and AM staff member Joanna Eckles stopped the other day during an early morning walk around downtown St. Paul to admire the art.

Their view is that the art in this St. Paul office building window is great for at least one reason. It is the equivalent of a “road closed” sign for birds, a visual reminder to the little winged critters that there’s an obstruction ahead and they should seek a different route.

Birds, Robert Zink reminds us, don’t get glass. Zink, curator of birds at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum, says since birds didn’t evolve with glass as part of their experience they apparently interpret reflections as simply another reality.

And then — smack.

They hit the glass and die in truly amazing numbers – 100 million to a billion a year in this country.

You are correct if that number sounds like an approximation, a bit of a wild guess. That, Zink says, is part of the motivation for research like Audubon Minnesota’s effort to walk the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis and try to arrive at a more definitive count of bird fatalities caused by colliding with buildings.

The research is also helping architects and building owners understand how to reduce the toll with better building design and window treatments that help birds see the obstruction.

So, save a bird. Put some art in your window.

Oh, and keep the cat inside. Bob Zink ranks outdoor cats, along with worldwide habitat loss and building collisions, as the top threats to bird populations.

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