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Vikings Team with Audubon Society to Help Save Birds’ Lives

5 Apr, 2017

By: Michael Popke

After an inordinate number of bird deaths were reported at the site of U.S. Bank Stadium — the home of the Minnesota Vikings — the NFL team is working with the National Audubon Society to help prevent future avian deaths.

A report titled “Bird Mortality at U.S. Bank Stadium During Fall Migration 2016” was presented to the Minnesota Sports Authority in February by the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary. It claims that at least 74 birds of 21 species collided with the $975 million stadium’s large glass facades during a three-month period of fall migration. Of those, 60 birds were killed and 14 “were observed either stunned on the ground or stunned after colliding… The survival rate of the stunned birds is unknown.”

The report also cited a recent study that estimates as many as 988 million birds are killed annually in the United States by colliding with buildings, and migratory birds are most at risk.

“Birds behave as if clear and reflective glass is invisible to them,” according to the report. “Under the right conditions, even transparent glass on buildings can form a mirror, reflecting sky, clouds or nearby habitat attractive to birds. When birds try to fly to the reflected habitat, they collide with the glass. Reflected vegetation has been shown to be the most dangerous, but birds also attempt to fly past reflected buildings or through reflected passageways, with fatal results.”

Despite denying requests to alter that stadium’s design early in the planning process — U.S. Bank Stadium opened last summer — the Minnesota Sports Authority and the Vikings have contracted with the National Audubon Society to conduct more thorough bird studies in 2017 and 2018, which could lead to a retrofit.

“The MSFA, the Vikings and Audubon Minnesota continue to work on a feasible monitoring plan for U.S. Bank Stadium,” the MSFA said in a statement sent to WIRED.com. “These efforts have been positive and collaborative and we will have more information when the study is finalized in 2019.”

Still, avian allies remain skeptical. “My fear is that they’re just going to continue on with the study and then not make any changes,” Jim Sharpsteen, director of publicity for the Audubon’s Minneapolis chapter, told WIRED.com. “Our primary concern is the safety of the birds.”

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