Spring 2016 Monitoring Update


Male Blackburnian Warbler found by a BirdSafe Pittsburgh volunteer on May 2, 2016.


While springtime is not as busy as fall, spring migration brings a large number of birds into the area in a short amount of time causing dense groupings to enter the city in quick succession.  Adult breeding males and females are heading to their breeding grounds to set up territories.  Many migrants travel throughout the night and drop in at first light to refuel after a few hundred miles of flying.  If they find themselves in the city, they can quickly become stuck in a maze of invisible barriers that may look like trees or open sky.  Unable to tell the difference between a real tree and a reflected one, they could fly towards what they believe to be another tree but end up hitting a window at full speed.  Unfortunately, most birds die on impact while others are lucky enough to recover after a few minutes and try again to escape the city.  

BirdSafe Pittsburgh volunteers monitor the streets of downtown during the early hours of day to look for injured or dead birds that can be captured and rehabilitated or collected as specimens for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.  Injured birds are taken to the Animal Rescue League’s Wildlife Center in Verona where they are rehabilitated and released again to continue their journey.

This past spring (January 16 – July 7) volunteers spent 188 hours searching (table 3) and collected 108 birds, 23 of which were stunned and captured for rehabilitation (table 1).  We also had a large number of species found this spring with a total of 41! That’s an increase of 5 species from 2015 and 12 species from 2014 (table 2).  

Table 1

Table 1.) Birds found during BirdSafe Pittsburgh monitoring January 16 – July 7, 2016


This male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was one of  seven found this spring.  Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are highly impacted by window collisions here in Pittsburgh.  This species ranked second highest in number of individuals killed by window collisions after Cedar Waxwing for the spring of 2016.


This Northern Waterthrush was one of three found this spring.  We were very surprised to not only find one Northern Waterthrush in the city but finding three was quite exciting.  Unfortunately they had all succumbed to the cities many windows.

Table 2.

Table 2.) Comparing species totals from spring of 2014, 2015, 2016 (species in red were only found in that year’s spring)


Gray Catbird came in third with six individuals this spring.


This male Indigo Bunting was in pre-alternate molt preparing for the breeding season when he collided with a window downtown.  He was only one of three individuals found this spring.

Table 3.

Table 3.) comparing the hours volunteers spent walking routes and looking for dead or stunned birds from the spring of 2014, 2015, and 2016


This Brown Creeper was one of 4 from this spring, fewer than usual compared to the past two springs (6 in 2014 and 9 in 2015).

If you would like more information about how you can get involved in helping us learn more about window collisions in the Pittsburgh area visit this page.  You can also follow us on Facebook and email us at birdsafepgh@gmail.com

Carnegie Museum of Natural History | One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh