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Windows matter! Of course!…and we measured them all

Fall migration has passed and our surveys are finished, however, we keep getting casual reports from people all over campus (thanks guys!).

One of the most important predictors of bird collisions is window area in a given building, besides surroundings, height, and others. Nicolette Cagle, Scott Winton, Charlene Wu, Erika Zambello, and Natalia Ocampo-Penuela spent one fun morning quantifying window area for 7 buildings at Duke where we do our surveys. Some windows were easy to measure…

but some were a little more challenging…


but we got them all!

CIEMAS has the largest quantity of glass, directly proportional to the insane amount of bird lives it takes every migration! Soon we’ll have more scientific insight into this correlation, but at least now we have quantified the windows and surveyed the birds! – We continue to get reports from people (which we really appreciate) and will start the survey again when the sun comes back…and bring the birds with him!


Fall carcass survey summary – 81 birds down!

The leaves are starting to fall…it’s getting cold, and the birds have (mostly) migrated south to warmer climates. Migration continues but we have passed the main peak. We surveyed around Duke’s campus looking for bird carcasses in 7 buildings during 21 consecutive days (9/22-10/12). Before the survey we conducted a “clean-up” survey to reset the “bird death timer” and record bird deaths corresponding to each day. during the “clean-up survey” we found 10 birds belonging to 8 different species. Here are some:

Common Yellowthroat 2
Male Common Yellowthroat
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Female (or young male) Rose-breasted Grosbeak







During the official survey, we found 33 bird carcasses belonging to 14 different species. Most of these carcasses were found at CIEMAS. It’s worth highlighting Black-throated Green and Black-throated Green Warblers, both birds (somewhat) difficult to observe in Durham.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
CP 03 (2)
Black-throated Green Warbler







Not only do we have AWESOME volunteers that help us with these surveys, we also have tons of people who report birds from their buildings on campus! Big thanks to both of these groups of people, without them this project would not be so successful, THANK YOU!

Back to business, thanks to all the great people who report collisions outside of survey times, we managed to accumulate data all over campus during this Fall. These incidental observations resulted in 34 bird carcasses of 17 species, just as many as the surveys!

Here’s the overall total of bird carcasses found this Fall 2014, including clean-up day, official surveys, and incidental observations. the grand total was 81 carcasses belonging to 26 species!:

Common Name Quantity
American Goldfinch 11
American Redstart 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler 2
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Brown Thrasher 2
Cape May Warbler 1
Carolina Wren 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2
Gray Catbird 8
Gray-cheeked Thrush 1
Hermit Thrush 2
Northern Cardinal 3
Northern Mockingbird 2
Ovenbird 3
Red-bellied woodpecker 1
Red-eyed Vireo 5
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 6
Song Sparrow 1
Swainson’s Thrush 1
Swamp Sparrow 1
Unidentified 9
Veery 1
Wood Thrush 4
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 5

We will continue these surveys next Spring and Fall, let us know if you want to volunteer! And keep the bird reports coming!

Thanks to everyone who participated and helped, especially to our volunteers: Erika Zambello, Charlene Wu, Cassandra Pallai, Emily Blanchard, Sadie Runge, Anna Wilson, August Burns, Fan Zhang, Scott Winton, Anne Driscoll, Kelly Meehan, and Erika Hansen.

Wood Thrush


Rose-breasted and Red-eyed

A few birds we see have red somewhere on their body…some on the breast, some on the eyes, some on their chest…and some all over like the Cardinals! Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (female or maybe young male)

This week, we have found two of these birds dead after a window strike. Ann Latta from the Undergraduate Financial Office reported a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, while the Fall carcass survey has picked up at least 4 Red-eyed Vireos in a week. They’re coming through…and staying here once they find their end against a window. In other studies, we have found Red-eyed Vireos to be the most vulnerable species to window collisions, with up to 20 found dead during migration season (Agudelo et al. 2010). As for the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, it is the first one we find dead, and also the only one I’ve ever seen on campus…how unfortunate.


Red-eyed Vireo (but you can’t see his red eyes anymore…)

Agudelo, L., J. Moreno, & N. Ocampo-Peñuela. 2010. Colisiones de aves contra ventanales en un campus universitario de Bogotá, Colombia. Ornitología Colombiana 10: 3-10.






Our project featured in “Outdoor Devil” blog!

Erika Zambello, luckily one of our project volunteers, blogs about her experiences at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment under the name “Outdoor Devil”. Erika has been a great volunteer for two carcass surveys last spring, and this fall. She found a Ruby-throated Hummingbird that had hit a window and was inspired to make others aware of the issue and to let them know what can be done and how to report a bird. At Duke, our project is the main gateway to report and prevent collisions. We tank Erika for her nice words and for helping us spread the word!

Read the blog here

Check out this blog post about us!

The Spring survey is underway, data is being gathered, volunteers are going out every day looking for birds, and our project feels like it has momentum.

Read our story on Scott Winton’s blogpost. Scott is a PhD candidate at the Nicholas School studying wetland bird bio-geochemistry (I know weird huh?). His biggest passion in life are birds and he keeps a blog about his birding adventures, but this time he turned to our project to tell our story. Scott has been of great help spreading the word to the student government at Duke. We appreciate this note and look forward to collaborating with Scott some more.

Spring migration carcass surveys!

It’s that time of year when the Neotropical migrants return to their breeding grounds, and the wintering birds leave Durham. Sapsuckers and Cedar Waxwings are making their way North to breed, while warblers, thrushes, tanagers, and raptors are coming back from South and Central America. During migration, tons of birds fly overnight, or during the day, and this is one of the most dangerous time for them, they’re vulnerable, tired, and confused sometimes.


Our Duke bird window collision project has started a Spring survey around 7 buildings on campus. Thanks to the help of brave MEMs from the Wildlife Survey class, and enthusiastic undergraduates we are gathering data everyday for 21 days, in peak migration.

The survey has been going on for 4 days so far and we’ve been getting some birds…So far 2 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, one Cedar Waxwing, a Tufted Titmouse, a Northern Cardinal, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a Brown Thrasher have all been victims to windows around campus.

We also got our first report from grounds keeping staff from the Nursing School, a Downy Woodpecker.

The survey will continue until April 21st. Help us by reporting birds you find!



Penn Pavilion…too much glass!

As you may have noticed, some of the windows of our very new Penn Pavilion have a horizontal line pattern (left window on picture below). This pattern is great for preventing bird-window collisions! However, a larger amount of windows do not have this pattern (window on right of picture). Even though these windows are next to those that have a pattern, they are still dangerous for birds.


The first Hermit Thrush of the year for me was found dead in front of one of these windows. This species is migratory and birds are coming through our campus heading North, where they will reproduce. Starting with this Hermit Thrush, we will get many migratory birds passing through, hopefully without encountering glassy obstacles on their journey. Help us collect data on bird collisions, let us know if you find a bird! More info here. A big thanks to Pablo Sprechmann who reported and photographed this bird 🙂

Hermit Thrush 2

Building survey test today!

Nicki Cagle and I, Natalia, completed a test survey of the buildings today, the same one that our brave volunteers will follow every day for 21 days this Spring, and then again this Fall. During the survey, we identified potential building problems, and adjusted the route to make it easier for our volunteers to find carcasses.

We found two carcasses that had already been scavenged, both first collision records for Duke campus:

– Eastern Towhee

– Yellow-rumped Warbler

We are ready to start the survey this Spring! – Volunteer and join us, and keep an eye out for bird carcasses!


First Fox Sparrow record on campus…dead!

Fox Sparrow3This is the first Fox Sparrow to have ever been seen on campus, and it’s dead! These birds are not very common on the East coast but they winter in NC in small numbers. Campus birders tell me they’ve never seen a Fox Sparrow on campus, neither have I, we also haven’t heard them. Maybe he was passing through…or migrating…whatever it was it all ended against a window of the CIEMAS building. Second bird of the year, the same day as the Titmouse.