by Elizabeth Cameron
Working with the Seattle Bird Collision Monitors, I spend part of my Thursdays looking for injured or dead birds around building perimeters. This may sound morbid, but the data we’re gathering is helping conservationists understand and prevent window collisions. Still, it’s hard not to feel a bit sad when I find a bird dead from a collision. But a few weeks ago I got to see the positive results of the care and concern over injured birds by assisting in the release of a beautiful Cooper’s Hawk on the Seattle University campus.
Rescue and Rehabilitation
The found Cooper’s Hawk was a hatch-year female, grounded on a street corner in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Her rescuers brought her to the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Lynnwood, WA for care. At the wildlife center, rehabbers discovered she had a fractured coracoid, a bone in the shoulder crucial for flying. With a fractured coracoid it would be nearly impossible for her to take flight from any low point, as she lacked the wing power to lift off and gain elevation. Jeff Brown, the Wildlife Naturalist at PAWS, shared that the injury was most likely caused by a frontal window collision. This is an all too common injury PAWS treats. Over the last 10 years, they’ve admitted over 1,100 birds to their wildlife center for collision-related injuries (2). This Cooper’s Hawk is among those birds that have received treatment to address trauma cause by impact.
Diagram of bird wing showing a coracoid bone (4).
Recovery and Release
After 29 days of recovery time, and with a brand-new bracelet (ID tag) from the Urban Raptor Conservancy, this young lady was ready for the wild. A small group of individuals from Seattle Audubon, PAWS, the Urban Raptor Conservancy, and Seattle University gathered on the Seattle U campus to watch this creature reclaim the skies. After hopping out of the box and checking out this small group of humans, she took off into the small patch of woods. She then perched in a tree, seeming to regain her bearings. After a while she flew away as we humans continued chatting about her magnificence.
Preventing Future Collisions
Of course, seeing this beautiful Cooper’s Hawk fly away after recovering from a window collision was truly awesome. However, she was one of the few lucky birds. There are many birds that are not able to recover after colliding with a window. Each year, between 365 and 988 million birds die due to collisions with glass, making glass one of the greatest human-related impacts that directly kill birds (3). While those numbers may seem overwhelming, there are several actions one can take to protect birds from window collisions. Turning off both exterior and interior lights and adding visual cues on glass can help birds recognize it as a barrier and reduce the risk of bird-window collisions on a home, business, or even skyscraper.
1. Video: Jeff Brown, Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), 2021.
2. Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). 2020. Patient intake records: known or suspected collision-related injuries, 2009-2019. Unpublished raw data.
3. Loss, Scott R., Tom Will, Sara S. Loss, and Peter P. Marra. “Bird–Building Collisions in the United States: Estimates of Annual Mortality and Species Vulnerability.” The Condor 116, no. 1 (2014): 8–23.
4. Bellairs, Ruth. “Skeleton and Muscles.” Atlas of Chick Development. 3rd Edition, pp. 112. (2014).
Connie Guillory / Audubon Photography Awards
Found a dead or injured bird?
Report it at dBird.org to help us track and prevent human-caused bird deaths!