Hundreds of Migrating Birds Killed After Crashing Into Glass Buildings in NYC

Hundreds of migrating birds died this week after crashing into New York City's glass towers, including the One World Trade Center, the Associated Press reported.

Melissa Breyer, who was monitoring the incident for NYC Audubon, tweeted pictures of the complex littered with bird carcasses.

While the number of birds killed from collisions was especially high this week, the issue is not new. Kaitlyn Parkins, NYC Audubon's associate director of conservation and science, said that bird strikes on the city's skyscrapers are a problem that the group has followed for years.

Storms that occurred on Monday night into Tuesday, coupled with high numbers of birds, became the "perfect combination that can lead to bird-window collisions," Parkins said.

"It seems that the storm might have brought the birds in lower than they would have otherwise have been, or just disoriented them. The effects of nocturnal light on birds is also quite strong, especially when it's a cloudy night."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

NYC Skyline
Hundreds of migrating birds were killed this week after colliding with glass buildings, such as the One World Trade Center, in New York City. Above, smoke from wildfires shrouds the sun as it rises behind lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center in New York City on September 12, 2021, as seen from Jersey City, New Jersey. Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Volunteers with NYC Audubon document bird deaths at high-risk spots during the spring and fall migrations.

Melissa Breyer, the volunteer who tweeted about finding nearly 300 birds on sidewalks surrounding the new World Trade Center towers, said the experience was "overwhelming."

"As soon as I got to the buildings, the birds were everywhere on the sidewalk," Breyer said. "Looking north, covered, south, covered, west, covered, the sidewalks were literally covered with birds."

NYC Audubon wants the owners of the World Trade Center towers and other buildings to help reduce the number of bird strikes by dimming the lights at night and by treating glass to make it more visible to birds.

"Make it so that they can see it and recognize that it's a solid barrier that they cannot fly through," Collins said.

Jordan Barowitz, a spokesperson for the Durst Organization, co-developer of One World Trade Center, said in an email, "The first 200 feet of One WTC are encased in glass fins that are non-reflective. This design was chosen because it greatly reduces bird strikes which mostly occur below 200 feet and are frequently caused by reflective glass."

Dara McQuillan, a spokesperson for Silverstein Properties, the developer of three other trade center skyscrapers, said, "We care deeply for wild birds and protecting their habitat in the five boroughs. Understanding that artificial night-time lighting in general can attract and disorient migrating birds, we are actively encouraging our office tenants to turn off their lights at night and lower their blinds wherever possible, especially during the migratory season."

It wasn't the last flight for all the birds that crashed. Some survived.

A total of 77 birds were taken to the Wild Bird Fund's rehab facility on the Upper West Side on Tuesday, the majority of them from the trade center area, director Ritamary McMahon said.

"We knew it was going to be a large migration coming in. They could tell from the radar," said McMahon, who scheduled extra staff to care for an expected influx of injured birds.

The Wild Bird Fund staff members gave the birds food, fluids and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling.

Thirty birds recovered and were released in Brooklyn's Prospect Park on Wednesday, McMahon said.

"One of our staff took an Uber down to Prospect Park to release them so they wouldn't face any more tall buildings on their travels," she said.

Pigeons Over NYC
Bird collisions with glass buildings in New York City have remained a persisting problem that NYC Audubon has documented for years. Above, pigeons fly over a Haitian flag and Toussaint Louverture painting on August 16, 2021, in the Little Caribbean neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts