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June 26, 2017

The Meadowlands attracts tens of thousands of birds each year, representing more than 200 species — including 35 endangered, threatened, or species of special concern, according to the New Jersey Audubon Society. In fact, between 2004 and 2006, the society recorded more than 150,000 birds — from raptors, to songbirds, to waterfowl — in the Meadowlands, which offers a diversity of habits and sits in the Atlantic Flyway, a major migration corridor.

That’s great news for birdwatchers and conservationists. Unfortunately, it’s not such wonderful news for the birds.

Development in the area, especially buildings with reflective walls or transparent surfaces, is killing birds who can’t distinguish the barriers and think they are flying into open air. At night, glass buildings can attract migrating birds that mistake reflections for navigational cues normally provided by stars and the moon.

This spring, New Jersey Audubon conducted surveys at 12 tall buildings in the area and found more than 250 individuals of 50 species that had collided with buildings in April and May. Of these, more than half were dead and the rest were injured.

It is possible to design buildings to reduce the number of bird strikes, using opaque glass, creating designs on transparent surfaces, and implementing innovative lighting systems. At the moment, though, compliance is voluntary. New legislation (A-4795) sponsored by Assemblyman Tim Eustace would mandate that designers, developers, and builders take steps to reduce bird strikes.

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