Philly teenager commemorates 1,500 migratory birds killed by striking city buildings

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The goldfinch she saw killed when it flew into the glass of a tiger enclosure at the Philadelphia Zoo left a deep mark on Victoria Sindlinger, when she was only 10 years old.

This is one of the reasons she was so horrified last year when Philadelphia reported bird deaths on a much larger scale, but for the same cause.

“I’ve loved birds my whole life,” she says. “It was a truly shocking event for everyone in the birding community.”

On October 2, 2020, up to 1,500 birds died within a 3½-block radius of the downtown area after flying through skyscraper windows. Birds, migrating with the change of seasons, probably struck buildings before dawn; thousands more probably died across Philadelphia.

A bird watcher said at the time that nothing like this had happened in the city for over 70 years.

On the anniversary of the mass dead on Saturday, Sindlinger, now 17 and a high school student, stood under a tree in the plaza outside Three Logan Square, where origami birds hanging from branches danced in the breeze. Hummingbirds, cranes, swans … a range of species symbolizing the extent of the carnage were depicted on brightly colored paper.

READ MORE: Up to 1,500 birds flew into some of Philly’s tallest skyscrapers one day last week. The massacre shook bird watchers.

“This is to highlight the enormous diversity of birds that were lost that night and the enormous diversity of birds that pass through Philadelphia,” she said.

The origami flock was his idea, a way to commemorate the deaths and remind people how they can help prevent future massive bird kills. These migratory birds, who use the stars as part of their navigation, were confused by the lights in city buildings, said Stephen Maciejewski, 71, a retired social worker and volunteer for Audubon in Pennsylvania.

“It was a combination of weather, low cloud, rain and the birds were crossing in waves, and it was a great migration day and the weather kind of pushed them down,” he said. -he declares. “Once they were down, they were everywhere.”

In addition to the lights, the reflections could have made birds believe that trees were inside buildings, and indoor atriums could also have attracted them.

Over the past year, bird organizations have introduced Lights Out Philly, which encourages people to protect migratory birds by turning off non-essential lights from midnight to 6 a.m., between August 15 and November 15. Program participants now include 36 commercial buildings. , 43 residential towers and six municipal buildings, according to Drexel University’s Academy of Natural Sciences.

Last year’s murder was a catalyst for the initiative, said Jason Weckstein, curator of the academy for ornithology.

“It’s kind of a win-win situation,” he said. “You spend less money on electricity and save birds at the same time. “

Sindlinger’s exhibit included advice on how to make homes safer for birds, including applying paint, film, or paracord to windows in strips 4 inches apart to keep birds from dying. ‘go to the glass.

“The reality is that window strikes have taken place wherever there is glass,” said Randall Sindlinger, Victoria’s father. “Almost any piece of glass can be a problem.”

His daughter’s passion for the natural world dates back to early childhood, he said. He remembered a piece of art she had drawn when she was 5 years old depicting wolves and birds with “I love the land” written on it. She made frequent visits to the zoo, and as she grew older birds became very important to her.

Sindlinger, who lives in West Philadelphia, had been looking for a way to commemorate the anniversary from the start this summer, and in August, I opted for an origami bird exhibition.

“I wanted something that would evoke the idea of ​​spirits,” she said, “a kind of suspension in space.”

The Delaware Valley Ornithological Club has provided hundreds of dollars for paper, wire, and waterproofing to protect the paper birds.

Just 10 days ago, it was not clear whether she would be able to find a place to host the exhibit. But the building management was supportive, she said, and it allowed her to hang the birds, made by her and six other families in the area, near where so many died.

The public space on 18th and Cherry Streets is a small wildlife sanctuary, she said. Unlike many city-center parks and squares, which are largely grassed areas, the area boasts trees, bushes, and even a fountain, a welcome respite for birds traveling thousands of miles on their migration to the North. South. Near the decorated tree, Sindlinger spotted a Connecticut warbler and a hooded warbler. In the tree, she and her father saw a little bat perching.

“This place is a beautiful little haven of peace,” she said.

READ MORE: Philly can save thousands of birds that crash into our buildings and die | Opinion

Although last year’s bird kill was extraordinary in his Large-scale deaths and injuries from birds hitting windows are common, Maciejewski said. Since August, he said, he has collected 165 birds killed and injured during walks in the city center.

And that must not happen. The National Audubon Society encourages developers to use bird-safe glass, which uses sintering, screen printing, or an ultraviolet coating that changes the reflectivity of the glass so that birds can see it.

“All architecture schools, all design schools are responsible for creating this nightmare, this death trap for birds everywhere.” Maciejewski said. “This has to change.”

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