Bird-safe building bill introduced in Anne Arundel County aims to reduce window collisions

Warning – if you’re saddened by dead bird photos, skip this article

A bird-safe building bill has been introduced by Anne Arundel Councilwoman Lisa Rodvien – if passed, it would make Anne Arundel County the second county in Maryland, after Howard, taking action to reduce window collisions, a problem that kills and/or injures a lot of birds.

According to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) website, “Each year up to 1 billion birds die after hitting glass surfaces in the United States.”

A 2014 study done by Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Migratory Birds found, “Building collisions, and particularly collisions with windows, are a major anthropogenic threat to birds, with rough estimates of between 100 million and 1 billion birds killed annually in the United States. However, no current U.S.
estimates are based on systematic analysis of multiple data sources. We reviewed the published literature and acquired unpublished datasets to systematically quantify bird–building collision mortality and species-specific vulnerability. Based on 23 studies, we estimate that between 365 and 988 million birds (median ¼ 599 million) are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S., with roughly 56% of mortality at low-rises, 44% at residences, and ,1% at high-rises. Based on .92,000 fatality records, and after controlling for population abundance and range overlap with study sites, we identified several species that are disproportionately vulnerable to collisions at all building types.”

Other places in United States and beyond have passed similar, bird-safe building laws including San Francisco, Toronto and New York City.

Rodvien’s bill incorporates a threat factor rating system developed by ABC and a team of architects.

Birds only see the reflection on windows, not the glass itself – they fly into glass thinking there’s nothing between them and the trees, bushes or sky.

Shortly after the bill was introduced in Anne Arundel County, Cheryl Thomas found a golden-crowned kinglet at the base of a commercial official building at 888 Bestgate Road in Annapolis – a building with a lot of reflective glass.

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Thomas

Twitter user @JennDeLMck also saw a window collision victim recently at 888 Bestgate. She Tweeted, “I saw a dead bird there the other morning that had obviously struck the window. It was a migrating warbler :(”

Nancy Tait emailed, “For years I was part of a group that worked out around sunrise at Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s beach off Herndon in Annapolis. This gorgeous warbler was the first black throated blue warbler I’d ever seen – victim of a window strike at their glassed Bay-view building. Pic is not great but I was in the midst of a workout when I saw it!”

Photo courtesy of Nancy Tait

According to Tait, “The black throated blue warbler was seen on May 2, 2015. We saw other birds over time there: a ruby throated hummingbird, a Carolina chickadee, and at least two or three others. We were there 3-4 times a week for about 8 years.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Annapolis headquarters building, located on the Severn River in Annapolis, is called the Philip Merrill Environmental Center – it opened in 2001 with a lot of eco-friendly design elements, but bird collisions still happened.

The building has since been outfitted with additional protection to guard against bird collisions.

“We don’t get bird strikes at the Merrill Center,” explained from Willy Agee, CBF’s vice president of administration “We put silhouettes on the windows years ago. It’s not a problem here.”

Window collisions aren’t just an issue for songbirds.

In March 2020, a red-shouldered hawk was injured after colliding with a window at an office building on Somerville Road in Annapolis. Owl Moon Raptor Center Volunteer Nancy McDonald rescued the bird.

In July of this year, a Cooper’s hawk died after a colliding with a window at Severna Park High School – the school opened in 2017, replacing an older school. The new design features a lot of glass at the school’s entrance, where the hawk was found.

Photo courtesy of Katrina Williams

While Rodvien’s bill addresses new construction of non-residential buildings, there are preventive measures that can be incorporated on all buildings, including bird-safe glass, film/decals/tape and other options.

In 2018, the Annapolis headquarters of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources was outfitted with Acopian BirdSavers – paracord at the recommended guidelines to reduce the number of birds from flying into windows. Bird collisions had been an ongoing issue at DNR for years before the install.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Department of Natural Resources

A program of the National Audubon Society called Lights Out, which has a nationwide network, including in Baltimore, is focused on preventing bird collisions with buildings.

According to the Light’s Out Baltimore Facebook page, “Our goal is to make Charm City safe for migratory birds by turning out decorative lighting in the city during peak migration seasons, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and to advocate for bird-safe building design that makes glass and windows visible to birds. A core group of volunteers walk downtown Baltimore during fall and spring migration to rescue injured birds from window collisions and collect dead birds. Injured ones are taken to Phoenix Wildlife Center and dead ones are taken to the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum. Lights Out Baltimore strives to advocate for bird-friendly building design, making glass bird-friendly, and educating the public about bird collisions.”

The windows at the Patuxent Research Refuge visitor’s center in Laurel were outfitted with perforated film that appears completely transparent when looking out the windows. The project was done by Lights Out Baltimore, with support from the Baltimore Bird Club, Friends of Patuxent Research Refuge and Patuxent Research Refuge.

Photos courtesy of Lynne Parks/Lights Out Baltimore

Lights Out Baltimore will be starting an install at Arlington Echo, Anne Arundel County Public Schools outdoor education center, in late November.

A public hearing for the bird-safe building bill will be held November 15 at 7 pm at the Arundel Center’s County Council Chambers, 44 Calvert Street, Annapolis. Testimony from the public begins at 6:30 pm.

For those interested in providing testimony (in person or online), sign up in advance here – https://www.aacounty.org/services-and-programs/county-council-meeting-participation?fbclid=IwAR31QuMbzweucZTj7T5z7xVOqCHVJqa4ky3zvTQF08dDtBFVCTCqoHfYUSI


Update (November 17, 2021) – the bird-safe building bill was defeated at the Anne Arundel County Council meeting on November 15. Councilwoman Rodvien (the sponsor of the bill) and Councilwoman Lacey voted for it, the rest of the council voted against it.

Update (November 5, 2021) – Councilwoman Rodvien replied to request for statement. She wrote, “

I learned about this issue from a fellow legislator and friend, Deb Jung, who serves on the Howard County Council. She introduced – and with her colleagues passed – legislation to require builders to use materials and designs that deter birds from flying into windows and buildings.  As you may know, a 2017 study indicated that the bird population in North America dropped from roughly 10 billion birds in 1970 to about 7 billion birds in 2017. This represents a roughly 30% decline in our nation’s bird population and is a staggering loss.  That raises the questions: why should we care?  and what can we do? I’ll start with the first question: besides the fact that birds reflect an enormously diverse slice of the animal kingdom, are beautiful to see and hear, and simply amazing creatures, birds play an important role in our ecosystem.   They play an important role in our ecosystems by keeping insect populations in check.  This is good for farmers who fight insects/pests as well as anyone who enjoys outdoor activities. Birds also serve as pollinators, help disperse seeds, and participate in scavenging carcasses.  They can also serve as a food source for humans and other animals.

So what does this have to do with my legislation?  As many as one billion birds die every year from window strikes.  As many as 500 million more are injured.  Changes in designs and materials can stop bird collisions altogether.  Many of these changes are free or extremely low cost.  Asking builders to make small, low-cost or no-cost changes can make an enormous difference in the number of birds in our ecosystem.  Furthermore, those same changes often dramatically increase energy efficiency, affording big savings in heating and cooling costs.  This is common sense legislation that is good for our ecosystem, our environment, and our pocketbooks.”

Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter. In her spare time, she’s a volunteer bird of prey rescuer.

Two ospreys dead after tornado in Edgewater and an eagle nest damaged

Fortunately no humans were killed as a result of the EF-2 tornado that hit Edgewater and Annapolis Wednesday with 125 mph winds, however the same can not be said for birds – in Edgewater, one osprey died from its injuries, another was euthanized because its injuries were too severe and an unoccupied bald eagle nest was damaged.

Those are just the birds that are known about.

The osprey that died almost immediately after the tornado was found on the sidewalk near PNC Bank on Solomons Island Road in Edgewater, directly across the street from an osprey nest.

A video shows the tornado approaching the same area with a juvenile osprey in the nest – it’s believed this might have been the same osprey that was killed.

Joshua Giles, of Solomons Island, was driving, saw the bird on the sidewalk, realized it shouldn’t be on the ground and stopped to help it.

Giles contacted Suzanne Shoemaker, director of Owl Moon Raptor Center – she asked if he could bring the bird to me.

Full disclosure – I’m a volunteer bird of prey rescuer for Owl Moon Raptor Center and I live in Edgewater.

The bird was dead by the time it arrived at my house.

It was an extremely sad moment as Giles and I stood in my garage while I quickly examined the lifeless bird – it appeared to have impact injuries.

Shortly before Giles arrived, another call had come in for another osprey.

Just north of the first incident and on the north side of the South River bridge, Deborah Schneider, a homeowner in the Shadow Point neighborhood posted on Facebook requesting help with a downed osprey in her backyard. This neighborhood was also in the direct path of the tornado and had a lot of downed trees.

I was tagged on the post and I made contact with Schneider.

I told her I would respond as soon as it was safe to do so – torrential rain and wind were still an issue.

A lull in the storm allowed me just enough time to travel the one mile between my house and Shadow Point.

Schneider had originally told me to look for her mailbox with the address on it – she then realized the mailbox had been taken down by the tornado. She also provided me a pair of boots – neither of us had realized the extent of the damage in Shadow Point and I was wearing shorts and sneakers.

Shadow Point neighborhood of Edgewater immediately after the EF-2 tornado
Some of the debris we had to climb through to get to the osprey in the Shadow Point neighborhood of Annapolis after the tornado.

With boots on and Schneider’s son, Gary Mitchell, leading the way, it took approximately 10 minutes to get to the osprey because of downed trees and debris in the way.

In a relatively unscathed corner of Schneider’s fenced backyard was the osprey. I quickly grabbed it and again, with the help of Mitchell, we climbed over downed trees and branches and got the the bird to my car.

Injured osprey in the Shadow Point neighborhood of Edgewater after the tornado.
Screenshot from video by Deborah Schneider.
Donna Cole rescuing a downed osprey in the Shadow Point neighborhood of Edgewater after the tornado. Screenshot from video by Deborah Schneider.

Because it was unsafe for anyone to travel Wednesday evening, the osprey was transported by fellow volunteer, Angela Mitchell, Thursday morning to Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Newark, De.

According to Lisa Smith, executive director of Tri-State, “Unfortunately, both the radius and ulna were badly fractured near the carpal joint, and the bird was euthanized.”

She added, “Thank you for rescuing this bird – it would have died a slow, painful death in the wild. Sometimes the best we can do is relieve their suffering.”

With the amount of trees down in Schneider’s yard, it’s not surprising the bird had severe injuries.

Schneider said it took, “seven guys seven hours” to clean up the debris.

She said an eagle nest she can see from her backyard was also damaged – eagle nesting season is over for this year and they will have time to rebuild or relocate in advance of next year – if they survived.

Schneider texted she’s, “A little concerned that I haven’t seen or heard them since the tornado.”

This is a video of the tornado as it crossed the South River – the narrator said “I just saw the leaves blowing and the birds just kind of going haphazard … they’re all sucked into it.”

Backing up in time, Wednesday morning had started off fairly quiet, At 12:13 pm, I got a call from Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research about an injured osprey in Queen Anne’s County. I knew I had a little time before the bad weather started to move in so I went.

I arrived at Piney Narrows Yacht Haven at 12:59 pm and quickly rescued that bird. I took it to the US-301 Bay Country Rest Area in Centreville, where I transferred it a Tri-State volunteer transporter who would transfer it to another volunteer transporter in Middletown, De., who would deliver it to Tri-State. Yes, these rescues/transports often require a lot of helping hands.

Donna Cole rescues an osprey at Piney Narrows Yacht Basin Wednesday before the bad weather. Courtesy photo.

I was in the car in Kent Narrows when I got the call from my daughter who told me she had just gotten the tornado warning.

I was on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge when I saw the tornado in the area of the South River – not far from my house. I called my daughter back to ensure she and our dog were in the basement and I stayed on the phone with her until I got home – I was panicked for her, but I didn’t tell her why or that I had seen the tornado and this was a horrible feeling.

From my house to Shadow Point is about a mile. From my house to the area of Annapolis that got hit badly is a little under two miles.

We were lucky we didn’t have damage/destruction, but others weren’t so lucky – here’s how you can help them.

Although I’ve been rescuing birds for over two years, I had, fortunately, not encountered any dead birds until this tornado. I wasn’t even sure what to do with the dead osprey that was brought to me – there is a protocol for eagles, but not ospreys.

I asked Shoemaker – she said to return it the wild, in the woods, where it can benefit other wildlife.

Every time I drive by the osprey nest on Solomons Island Road, I look for the ospreys – it was getting late in the season for a bird to still be in the nest and I’d comment to my daughter each time that it should be going south to its winter home.

On Saturday, I had emailed BGE’s Communications Manager Richard Yost, about that nest – when ospreys nest on BGE’s equipment, it’s can be dangerous for the birds and the equipment.

I also alerted Yost that the osprey guard next to the nest platform at the base of the northside of the South River Bridge was hanging down.

In other words, these birds mean a lot to me.

The osprey killed in the tornado was returned to the wild in the woods in my backyard.

As for the osprey I rescued in Queen Anne’s County before the storm hit, Smith emailed, “It had a large, single-barbed fishing hook embedded in the skin over the left wing, with fishing line wrapped around the wing and entangled in the primaries. There was some swelling of the soft tissues, but overall, I think it has a good prognosis.”

Fortunately there’s no shortage of news reports about tornado damage incurred by humans – those reports can help the National Weather Service classify the intensity of the tornado and can communicate how others can help those who suffered losses.

There is, however, a shortage of information about what happens to birds and other wildlife during tornadoes – I’ve now seen it.

Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative/multimedia reporter. She’s also a volunteer bird of prey rescuer.

“Cease feeding birds until this wildlife morbidity/mortality event subsides” – still no cause(s) identified says Maryland Department of Natural Resources

“No definitive cause(s) of illness or death have been determined at this time” in the mystery illness that has sickened and killed birds in several states, as well as Washington, D.C., according to a Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) statement issued Friday.

According to DNR, “The following pathogens have not been detected in any birds tested, based on results received to date: Salmonella and Chlamydia (bacterial pathogens); avian influenza virus, West Nile virus and other flaviviruses, Newcastle disease virus and other paramyxoviruses, herpesviruses and poxviruses; and Trichomonas parasites.”

DNR indicated additional tests are ongoing – these include transmission electron microscopy, microbiology, virology, parasitology and toxicology diagnostic tests.

According to the DNR, “In late May, wildlife managers in Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky began receiving reports of sick and dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs. More recently, additional reports have been received from Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.”

It was first reported here the mystery avian illness is limited to young birds.

“While the majority of affected birds are reported to be fledgling common grackles, blue jays, European starlings, and American robins, other species of songbirds have been reported as well,” according to DNR.

It should be noted other species have also been affected – northern flickers, a member of the woodpecker family, have been seen with this illness too. Flickers are often seen sourcing food from the ground.

Photo by Donna L. Cole

In other words, if you see a sick bird of any species with eye/neurological symptoms, you should report it and if the bird is still alive and in need of help, contact a wildlife rehabilitation facilitation too.

“Birds congregating at bird feeders and bird baths can transmit diseases to one another,” according to DNR and as such, precautions are being advised:

  • Cease feeding birds until this wildlife morbidity/mortality event subsides.
  • Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution (one part bleach mixed with nine parts water), rinse with water, and allow to air-dry.
  • Avoid handling birds unless necessary. If you do handle them, wear disposable gloves. 
  • If picking up a dead bird, place an inverted plastic bag over your hand to avoid direct contact with the bird. To dispose of dead birds, place them in a plastic bag, seal, and discard with household trash or alternatively bury them deeply. 
  • Keep pets (including pet birds) away from sick or dead wild birds as a standard precaution.

If you encounter sick or dead birds, contact your state or District wildlife conservation agency for further instructions and to help them track this event. Maryland residents can contact the DNR/ USDA Wildlife hotline at 877-463-6497.

If you find any wildlife in need of immediate help in Maryland and there’s no response at the number above, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility.

According to DNR, “no human health or domestic livestock and poultry issues have been reported.”

(Cover photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources)

Bird mortality issue limited to “all young birds,” according to three wildlife rehabilitation facilities

“These are babies, they’re blind and they’re crying for their parents.”

Whatever it is that’s sickening and killing birds in several states and the nation’s capital seems to be limited to nestlings/fledglings – birds born this year, according to three wildlife rehabilitation facilities in different geographic areas.

No cause has been identified yet.

According to Jim Monsma, executive director of City Wildlife in Washington D.C., they’ve “taken in about 175 birds with ophthalmic and neurological symptoms, the first being on April 11.  They have all been young birds who hatched this year, primarily Blue Jays, Common Grackles, and European Starlings.  We have, however, also seen House Sparrows, American Robins, Northern Mockingbirds, Carolina Wrens, Norther Flickers, and a few other species with the same symptoms.”

Lisa Smith, executive director of Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Newark, De., e-mailed, “Tri-State has received 18 cases as of today (6/17). 4 from MD, 2 from PA, and 12 from DE. The earliest case was received on 5/29. 13 Blue Jays, 3 Common Grackles, 1 European Starling, and 1 American Robin have been received. All were young birds, either nestlings or fledglings. Because the cause of the disease is unknown, we are euthanizing all birds on admission with symptoms of this disease. We don’t know how contagious it is, and with 170+ birds in house currently, we can’t put our entire caseload at risk.”

The dead birds are being examined at several labs.

Smith emailed, “We submitted 4 cases (dead birds) to the PADLS lab at New Bolton Center for testing. We are eagerly awaiting the results. We greatly appreciate all the cooperative work that the laboratories and agencies are doing to try to figure out what is causing this illness.”

According to a June 9 statement from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), other labs currently looking for answers to this mysterious avian illness include “the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the University of Georgia Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study and the University of Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program.”

According to that USGS statement, “in late May, wildlife managers in Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia began receiving reports of sick and dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs. No definitive cause of death is identified at this time.”

Unfortunately, it seems this has now gone beyond those initial locations.

The Ohio Wildlife Center posted on Facebook Friday, “We have been admitting songbirds with eye issues and are working closely with the Ohio Division of Wildlife and USGS National Wildlife Health Center to help determine what might be causing our local birds to become sick.”

In a different Facebook post Friday, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife stated, “We are receiving reports of sick and dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs. Other states have reported similar cases.”

Ginger Rood has a wildlife rescue organization called Wildbirds in Northern Kentucky.

I got fledglings and juveniles – I didn’t get any adults,” said Rood. “We’re averaging one a day, if not more – we’ve had at least 30.”

Those birds, according to Rood, were starlings, blue jays, grackles and one house sparrow.

Rood said the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife picked up some of the birds from her recently. She had previously sent 16 birds to the University of Kentucky lab – she said those reports were inconclusive.

Though Rood is unsure of the cause and hopes it’s quickly found, she noted a similarity to the 2000 outbreak of West Nile Virus. She explained with that outbreak, the corvid family of birds was the most susceptible. Blue jays are corvids.

Crows are also corvids. According to Orie Lawn, who commented on a WNAV Facebook post, he found a baby crow Wednesday night in Linthicum with symptoms of the illness – he took the bird to a rehabilitator.

Conjecture has led some to believe the bird mortality issue is related to the emergence of the Brood X cicadas, however there has been no confirmation of this by anyone.

In Maryland, there have been few, if any, cicadas on the Eastern Shore. There have also been few, if any, reports of birds on the Eastern Shore suffering from this issue.

According to Smith, “It does not appear that there are as many cases on the Delmarva peninsula as there are in the Baltimore/DC/VA area.”

Kim McLamb, a Queen Anne’s County-based wildlife rehabilitator, said she’s not heard of any birds in her area with this mystery illness.

For rehabilitators who try so hard to save birds, seeing them in this condition has been rough – especially because of the age of the birds.

“These are babies, they’re blind and they’re crying for their parents,” said Rood. “They don’t know what’s going on, they’re begging for food – some have had seizures.”

Rood said it’s been day after day of this including on her birthday, which she described as “horrible.”

“I’m 85-years-old, my husband is 90 and I’m falling apart,” said Rood. “This is sad. When I heard those babies crying for their parents and they couldn’t eat, it broke my heart.”

According to the USGS, “birds congregating at feeders and baths can transmit disease to one another.” Recommendations are:

  • Cease feeding birds until this wildlife mortality event has concluded;
  • Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution;
  • Avoid handling birds, but wear disposable gloves if handling is necessary; and
  • Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a standard precaution.

If you encounter sick or dead birds, contact your state wildlife conservation agency. In Maryland, call toll-free 877-463-6497.  US Department Agriculture (USDA),  Wildlife Services Operators are available from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, except State holidays.

Donna L. Cole is an award-winning multimedia and investigative reporter for WNAV News in Annapolis, Md.

USGS and Partners Investigating DC Area Bird Mortality Event

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center, in late May, wildlife managers in Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia began receiving reports of sick and dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs. No definitive cause of death is identified at this time.

The District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and National Park Service are continuing to work with diagnostic laboratories to investigate the cause of mortality. Those laboratories include the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the University of Georgia Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study and the University of Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program.

Birds congregating at feeders and baths can transmit disease to one another. Therefore, the state and District agencies recommend that the public in the outbreak area:

  • Cease feeding birds until this wildlife mortality event has concluded;
  • Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution;
  • Avoid handling birds, but wear disposable gloves if handling is necessary; and
  • Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a standard precaution.

If you encounter sick or dead birds, please contact your state or District wildlife conservation agency. To report nuisance, injured or sick wildlife, call toll-free in Maryland 1-877-463-6497.  US Department Agriculture (USDA),  Wildlife Services Operators are available from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, except State holidays. For phone numbers outside of Maryland, please call: 410-349-8055.​

If you must remove dead birds, place them in a sealable plastic bag to dispose with household trash. Additional information will be shared as diagnostic results are received.

Cover photo of sick bird in the D.C. area courtesy of Leslie Frattaroli, National Park Service