Bird Friendly Chicago

Over 26,000 dead birds have been found in the Chicago Loop between 2005 and 2014. The 63 birds pictured here were collected during a few hours on September 30, 2018, in the Chicago Loop between Van Buren and Kinzie Streets.

pc: Annette Prince

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The challenge: Chicago buildings are killing birds

Why do birds matter?

Birds are a critical part of a sustainable, balanced environment that people and all life depend on. They control insect and rodent populations, pollinate plants and distribute seeds.

Birds are an important and inspirational connection to the natural world. They enrich human lives. Bird enthusiasts make important contributions to local economies. A US Fish & Wildlife Service survey in 2011 estimated that bird watchers spent a combined 44.5 billion dollars annually on travel and equipment expenses.

Why is Chicago so important?

Chicago is within a major flight path for millions of migratory birds that move along its rivers and the shores of Lake Michigan every spring and fall. Birds have used this region’s critical green spaces to rest and feed for thousands of years before human development created an urban environment filled with hazardous lighting and glass

Why is glass dangerous for birds?

Birds cannot see or know to avoid transparent glass. They do not understand that sky and landscaping that they see reflected on glass surfaces are merely images.

Why is nighttime lighting dangerous for birds?

Most species of songbirds migrate at night. Lighting that emanates from urban areas into the nighttime sky confuses birds, and attracts them away from their migratory flights, bringing them down into the glass hazards of the city.

Are collisions a year-round problem?

The greatest concentration of collisions occurs during spring and fall migration (March to June and August to November) when millions of birds pass through the Chicago region. Resident, wintering and breeding birds are victims of collisions throughout the year.

What does Chicago need to do to solve the problem of collisions?

The solution is to require bird-friendly building design as a standard in Chicago.


Birds are often fooled by glass with deadly results.


The Tribute in Light for victims of 9/11 attracts birds which remain in the columns of light, circling. Lights are turned off periodically so that birds can escape.

pc: John De Guzman/New York Times


Unacceptable mortality

It is estimated that from 300 million to one billion birds are killed annually in North America by collisions with buildings. These three migrating sapsuckers were fooled by reflections of trees in a building a few blocks from the lakefront in fall of 2018.