Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

A Vikings' stadium-glass solution

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird conservation Updated: July 31, 2014 - 8:10 PM

The football stadium under construction for the Minnesota Vikings, the stadium with the bird-deadly glass, will have 116 private suites. Surely, each suite will have its own bathroom. 


What will each bathroom cost? I estimate $10,000 each, minimum, with nice tile and executive-class fixtures, cushioned seats maybe. 


OK, multiply that times 116 and you have $1.16 million dollars, almost EXACTLY the cost of glass that is bird-friendly, glass that would save thousands and thousands of bird lives in years to come. 


Let the suite owners and their guests use the public bathrooms like the rest of us. Hey, I’d even let them go to the head of the line.

Call this guy about the stadium

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: July 31, 2014 - 7:44 PM

Here is someone else to contact regrading Viking's stadium glass. Maybe this should be your first call. Lester Bagley is vice-president of public affairs and stadium development for the football team. 

Bagley, Lester 
Minnesota Vikings
9520 Viking Dr
Eden Prairie, MN 55344
Telephone: (952)918-8350
Email: bagleyl@vikings.nfl.net

New Vikings stadium -- bird-killing zone

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird conservation Updated: July 31, 2014 - 11:24 AM

There are two ways birds die when they collide with glass. They break their necks, and die sooner. Or, the suffer concussions, and, very often, die later, after flying away. I’ll bet the Minnesota Vikings football team doesn’t know about the concussion part. 

It does appear as of Thursday morning, however, that even if they did it would make little difference. The team is adamant about not spending some of our money on stadium glass that would make collisions by birds less likely.

You’d think that the Vikings, of all people in town, would understand concussions.

And you’d wish that the team had more regard for our money. Even after we gave the Vikings hundreds of millions of dollars for their fancy new home it is, after all, our money. 

The stadium is designed to feature vast panels of glass. It is to be a glass palace. It is to be, so far, a glass killing zone for migrant birds. 

The paper this morning indicates that some members of the Minneapolis City Council are aware of the problem, and understand the use of the bird-safe glass. It could be substituted for regular reflective at the cost of about a million extra dollars. Lots of money, certainly, but if you’ve been following stadium construction news the Vikings have yet to blink on any extra cost, whatever it might be.

Why do birds collide with window or door glass? Because it is invisible to them. It reflects the background, appearing to be nothing but the habitat through which they always fly, unharmed. There is glass available that contains markings visible to birds but not to you and me. The markings warn birds away. This glass is in use throughout the country; it’s not some yet-to-be-tried idea.

National Audubon, through Audubon Minnesota, is collecting petition signatures from people who support use of bird-safe glass. The last count I saw was 45,000 signees, with 65,000 the initial goal.  That would be one signature for each seat in the stadium. The American Bird Conservancy, based in Washington, D.C., has joined the effort to change the glass. This is becoming an issue with a national profile. 

You’d think both the team and the National Football League would find this embarrassing. We’ve learned, though, haven’t we, that it takes a lot to embarrass this team.

What can we do? Write or call the governor. Write the mayor of Minneapolis. Write your city council member if you live in Minneapolis. You can write your state legislator. You can write or call the Vikings. You can sign the petition. You can help broadcast the issue and need for support of bird-safe glass. Here is email contact information for some of these suggestions:

Zygi Wulf's office in New Jersey, telephone 203-348-2200

email to Zygi is info@gardenhomesmanagement.com

Vikings office telephone is (952) 828-6500
Zygi Wilf    Owner/Chairman
Mark Wilf    Owner/President
Leonard Wilf    Owner/Vice Chairman
Reggie Fowler    Vikings Ownership Partner
Alan Landis    Vikings Ownership Partner
David Mandelbaum    Vikings Ownership Partner
Lester Bagley    Vice President of Public Affairs/Stadium Development

Gov. Mark Dayton


Telephone: 651-201-3400
Toll Free: 800-657-3717

It’s simple to contact the city by phone. Just dial 311.
Mayor Betsy Hodges can be reached at (612) 673-2100

Audubon Minnesota is active in this campaign: 
Audubon Minnesota
1 Water Street West Suite 200
St. Paul, MN 55107

To sign its petition go to


The Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union has adopted this resolution:
"The Board of Directors of the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union, on behalf of
its members, requests that the Minnesota Vikings and the NFL make every
reasonable attempt to use construction materials that will minimize any
adverse effects on wildlife, as also recommended by Audubon Minnesota."

Do something to help. Call somebody. Write somebody. Call and write everybody. If we make enough noise we can do this. I favor phone calls, hundreds and hundreds of phone calls to the governor and the team. We need to play tough defense on this one.

Meal moths and Japanese beetles

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird feeding, Birds in the backyard Updated: July 27, 2014 - 7:45 PM

We’ve had two encounters with meal moths. One was seriously bad, the other educational.


Meals moths can arrive with the bird seed you buy. Suppliers are careful to exclude the pests, but once in a while they are part of the package. This is why seed should be kept in a covered metal container, preferably in your garage. Unprotected seed should never be kept in your house. You have been warned.


Time one: we discover the infestation when we open the pantry to find small green worms on everything containing flour, outside boxes and in. The moths like grain. They — or it — laid eggs there. The eggs hatched. We wondered how many unhatched eggs we had eaten, then laid bare the pantry.


That was long ago. More recently, we saw moths flying about the house. In the darkened living room they were flitting shadows against the television screen. I bought sticky traps baited with tiny wafers soaked in meal moth sex hormone. I tore open the package containing the wafer, and before I could arm the trap the air in the kitchen came alive with fliers. Moths were everywhere. They covered the sticky part of the trap before the day was over. I had to buy more traps. 


Today, the sex trap is for Japanese beetles. (Why don’t birds eat them? They seem not to, for we have many of the large, shiny, very visible bugs on our mountain ash tree and wild grape vines.) I have used a Spectracide spray in the past, plastic container screwed to the garden hose. This produces more poison than I like, keeping one eye on the tree, the other on the drifting spray. I wanted to mix a bit of the chemical with water for use in a hand sprayer, but the container carried a no-no from the EPA. 


Aside: I had close encounter recently with a man who probably would have mixed to his own formula, government be damned. He told me, in response to a question I had not thoroughly thought through, that climate change, if any, was the will of God. Later he told me that seat belts, which he did not use, were a government infringement on his freedom. His pest decisions are probably more direct than mine.


I thought of him as I drove to Home Depot to buy traps. The Spectracide web site offered customer endorsements for the traps. One satisfied customer reported trapping an estimated 4,000 beetles in just a few days. Wow. She warned about touching the hormone wafer, for you then would be besieged by crazed beetles. That didn’t happen here. Six hours into the effort we have about half a dozen pissed-off bugs buzzing in the bottom of the collection bag. We’re hopeful that tomorrow will be a better day. Four-thousand is overdoing it, but six isn’t enough.


Hopefully, removal of the beetles will ensure grapes ripening, which will please the birds here. We’ve made wine before with wild grapes, but never mastered Pinot Noir.


Buckthorn berries, by the way, also should be visible now, preparing to ripen. It is the female trees that bear fruit. Get rid of them. If you lack inclination to remove all of the buckthorn, at least cut down or poison the trees with fruit. Buy a brush-killer liquid. With a knife, scrape some bark from the buckthorn trunk, then paint the wound with the herbicide. It works well.


"The Three-Minute Outdoorsman"

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird books Updated: July 25, 2014 - 2:32 PM

This should be a good read. University of Minnesota ornithologist Dr. Robert Zink has a book out entitled “The Three-minute Outdoorsman : Wild Science from Magnetic Deer to Mumbling Carp.” It’s published by the University of Minnesota Press. Book stores should have it; the Hennepin County library does. I’ve read one piece from the collection, and it was informative and entertaining. I can tell you more once the library delivers the copy I’ve requested.


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