MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The effort to save migrating birds from deadly collisions with glass is about to be back before the Minneapolis City Council.

Earlier this year, bird advocates protested the large glass panels planned for the new Vikings stadium but to no avail.

This time, they’re turning their attention to the city’s skyway system, and some possible bird-safe changes.

It is a fatal attraction of sorts. Glass creates a reflection that lures birds in at the height they typically like to fly.

“Most of the bird collisions occur in the first to the third stories of buildings, and skyways would be the
second story,” said Jerry Bahls, president of the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis.

He says because the Mississippi River is a large flyway for many kinds of migrating birds, lots of them fly through downtown Minneapolis.

Birds are valuable to our environment because they eat many of the insects that are considered pests.

“It’s the reflection of the glass that’s the problem,” Bahls said. “Because they land in a tree and they see another tree right nearby, and so they are going to fly over there not realizing that is not really a tree.”

Council member Cam Gordon is introducing an ordinance amendment that would add requirements for bird-safe features in any new skyways or newly-renovated ones.

“I think there’s been a growing recognition that we are in a migratory path,” Gordon said. “We have a river and a lot of people who like nature. I hear a lot from constituents about birds.”

He says the city will take a look at what other cities with similar challenges are doing and at what cost.

“We don’t want to put a big burden on developers and a big expense either. My assumption is there probably won’t be much,” Gordon said.

Steve Cramer is the CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

“I think it is a concern like anything,” he said. “It’s a matter of what are the benefits and what are the costs of any changes we might make. So I think that is what we need to examine carefully, and understand what those trade-offs might be.”

The possible bird-safe features in the skyways include things like adding etchings to the glass to break up the reflection.

Gordon said a study done at the University of Minnesota found most of the bird fatalities on the Minneapolis campus occurred as a result of birds colliding into skyways.

Before the city council takes action, the issue will go to the zoning and planning committee and there will be a public hearing to get feedback from the community.

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