The study at U.S. Bank stadium currently underway to determine the risk stadium glass poses to birds is being done for the wrong reason. That’s the opinion of Michael Mesure, a Toronto bird-safe expert who recently visited here.
Michael Mesure is executive director of Fatal Light Awareness Program Canada, a bird conservation organization. Three years ago he led development and launch of BirdSafe building standards and risk assessments.
Mesure believes the stadium study is “primarily about reluctance to do the right thing.
“They’re hoping that the total number of birds recovered during the study will be low enough to justify them not investing in bird-deterrent measures,” he said.
The bird-collision study in question is being funded jointly by the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority (MSFA) and the Minnesota Vikings. The study covers four spring and fall migration seasons. Collection of data will end this year. Findings are to be published next year.
Mesure was here in June at the invitation of The Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis. His visit followed that of Dr. Daniel Klem, an ornithologist who is regarded as an expert in bird/glass collisions.
“Whether this study determines their structure kills one bird or 1,000 birds isn't the point,” Mesure said in a recent interview. “The point is the stadium’s potential to kill birds.”
Once again, Mesure said, research “is being exploited to help meet someone's agenda.”
Huge, reflective glass stadium windows a few dozen wing flaps from the Mississippi River, a major migration corridor with habitat lining its shores — we know that’s a problem, Mesure said.
We know, he said, that every piece of window glass has the potential to kill birds. Some buildings are worse than others. The amount of glass is an issue. So is location.
“We already know these things,” he said.
Mesure pointed out that a building posing a risk to birds often has one or two hot spots. These are where the majority of window strikes occur. These few places are where initial remedy should be applied, he said.
It is better to fix the particular locations that kill the most birds, he said, than to demand more and be told, no.
Fall is the worst season for window strikes because, with the addition of summer hatchlings, more birds are in migration. Fall migrational lasts about a month longer than the spring movement.
Toronto was the first city to embrace a bird-safe program, doing so in 1993.
“It was a terrible uphill battle to get to where we are today,” he said. You have to keep working at it. The issue is not going away, Mesure said.
With the stadium at the heart of the bird-safe discussion here, I asked Mesure to tell me what he saw when he visited the stadium in June.
“It has the characteristics of a perfect storm for migratory birds,” he said.
Interesting questions will arise when the stadium study is published. How many dead birds is too many? Who will decide?