Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY

Birds dying with stadium collisions, but not in massive numbers initially projected

A new report claims 500 birds will die in the next three years based on the numbers from the first fall migration. The problem is the cost to prevent more collateral bird damage.

With the annual early spring migration of birds that are using the Mississippi Flyway to get from the warm temperatures of the South to hatch their offspring in the cooler temperatures of the North, an old argument is being raised once again about the drawbacks of the Minnesota Vikings’ new home, U.S. Bank Stadium.

In a report submitted to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority by three organizations – the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds and the Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary – the groups gave their findings of an observational study they conducted last summer and fall during the annual fall migration.

The groups took turns observing the reflective glass on the stadium from Aug. 14 to Nov. 7, 2016, primarily between 6 and 8 a.m. in October, which is the prime time for birds to take their winter migration south.

During their nearly three months of reporting, they reported 60 birds of 21 different species killed and 14 more injured. Used for comparison purposes, the highest mortality rate of any building in three years (six migration cycles) was 250 birds – an average of 42 per migration cycle.

The groups extrapolated their numbers to include birds they didn’t see – either ones picked up by scavenger birds like crows, disposed of by passers-by or disposed of by sanitation employees.

In the end, the study claims that upwards of 500 birds or more will die over the next three years at the current rate due to collisions with the stadium at more than twice a rate of any other building in downtown Minneapolis.

The groups are recommending to the MSFA that the stadium be retrofitted with new non-reflective glass. However, cost estimates for such an undertaking have been estimated up to $60 million – a cost likely far too expensive to take on to potentially save the lives of a couple of hundred birds a year.

Millions of birds annually use the Mississippi Flyway and the number that have struck U.S. Bank Stadium is a minute fraction of those. The figures, while significant, are far below the initial estimates of multiple thousands of birds that would die during each migration.

It isn’t callous for those who built the iconic stadium to say that the number of dead birds is collateral damage that was understood when the stadium was built. Birds fly into glass buildings. Expecting the MSFA to add $60 million to the cost of the stadium to protect migratory birds that fly over Minneapolis by the millions each year is not going to happen.

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