Living Memorial: Migratory birds circling the Tribute in Lights on 9/11/13

I came across this video showing thousands of migratory birds circling the Tribute in Lights yesterday. The birds were migrating along the Atlantic Flyway and were disoriented by the lights. Other birds may have been attracted to the large number of insects and smaller birds caught up in the lights as prey (Cornell Lab of Ornithology). To reportedly help re-orient the birds and prevent exhaustion, volunteers from the NYC Audubon turned off the spotlights temporarily.

Video taken by: Shervin Pishevar

The lights are xenon searchlights in lower Manhattan arranged by artist Gustavo Bonevardi to resemble the twin towers as a tribute to the victims of 9/11.

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It isn't beautiful at all if you know about migrating bird behavior--you see beauty, I see dying warblers. They aren't attracted to insects at the lights; they are disoriented and can end up circling lights until they are too exhausted to continue and drop to the ground--a catastrophe for an animal that may have only just enough fat to make the trip to its wintering grounds. In addition, numerous birds are killed during migration by window strikes on the skyscrapers of NYC and the blinding lights probably don't help.

People track the migration over the 9-11 anniversary using radar so they know if there will be a mass movement of birds or not. This time there was an unexpected movement caused by weather. http://birdcast.info/forecast/special-analysis-tribute-in-light-11-12-s…
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/15/nyregion/making-new-yorks-glass-build…
http://nycaudubon.org/project-safe-flight

Dr. Dolittle needs to do more fact-checking before making assumptions. ;)

Thank you for your comments. I updated the post for clarity. While I did mention that the lights needed to be shut off to help re-orient the migratory birds and prevent exhaustion, I did not make it clear that the lights disoriented them to begin with.

As for the possibility that some birds were attracted to insects also caught up in the lights, that information was obtained from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This article also mentions a Peregrine Falcon that was spotted in the lights hunting for small warblers in 2012.

Also, notice that environmental effects on migrating birds were totally ignored in the construction of the One World Trade Center skyscraper, which will now be a gigantic reflecting mirror for birds to smash into. The effect of one building is not significant, but the cumulative effects of human disturbance on bird populations definitely are: millions of cats and dogs, habitat fragmentation and habitat destruction, insecticides reducing their food supply, and noise pollution drowning out bird territorial songs. Even the populations of some common species of birds have been in steep decline in the USA. When will we start to undo the cumulative effects rather than add to the problem?

The inherent strength (and sanity) of nature is a prevalent theme in my soon-to-be-released novel, The Book of Ash (Boxfire Press), and one that got its inspiration from 9/11. One night, not long after the attacks, I was moved by the sight of a flock of geese flying south, passing through, at times, the smoke rising from the wreckage. It made me realize that while the human world was out of order, the natural world was not – that no matter our struggles, birds, animals of all kinds, plants and fish, continue to follow an inner guide, a purer instinct. http://www.amazon.com/The-Book-Ash-A-Novel/dp/1938191048

By John McCaffrey (not verified) on 18 Sep 2013 #permalink

Here in my country, hundreds of thousands of migratory birds come at the seaside, and lakes. Though, the number of such migratory birds has decreased since the last decade, still Pakistan is considered as the highly visiting area for the birds coming from the Siberia in the summer season. This is the primary responsibility of industrialists that they must focus upon on ecological equilibrium so that nature remains intact, safe and protected from industrial hazards.

By Faisal Saya (not verified) on 19 Sep 2013 #permalink

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By canada goose j… (not verified) on 29 Nov 2013 #permalink

Thank you

By Web Tasarım (not verified) on 05 Mar 2014 #permalink