New lab paper: weather drivers of bird collision risk

yellow-rumped warbler in flight

Photo by Hugh Sansom, Wikimedia Commons

A new paper led by undergraduate student Kara Scott is published now in the journal Ecology and Evolution!

In this paper, we looked at the conditions that drive bird collisions with buildings in two major cities, Toronto and Chicago. We were able to do this thanks to data from programs like FLAP Canada and Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, where hundreds of volunteers survey the city each day to collect birds that have been killed or injured in collisions. Within a 10-year period, volunteers in Chicago and Toronto had counted more than 60,000 collisions.

We found that most bird collisions with buildings occur during a relatively small number of days within the peak migration seasons (the first days of May, and first days of October, respectively). In a typical season, more than 50% of the collisions occur in just the 12 worst days.

The high risk days have fair weather, with clear skies, high visibility, a lack of precipitation, and favourable winds for migration — all conditions that increase the amount of migration traffic.

Our results also indicate that window reflections may be especially hazardous during fall migration, when many first-time migrants are on the move.

Kara worked on this project during her iCureus award in 2020, then co-wrote the manuscript with me for an independent study in BIOL 4901. She is moving on to start her MSc in Steve Cooke’s lab this year. Congratulations, Kara!