Volunteers embark on daily searches in Chicago for injured, dead birds

CHICAGO (CBS) — Sometimes our life experiences here at CBS 2 inspire the stories we do.

Photojournalist Allen Maniscalco encountered an injured bird over the weekend.

He was surprised that a volunteer bird rescuer answered his call for help so quickly.

Turns out, a whole army of bird warriors trek Chicago every day.

Allen and Morning Insider Lauren Victory tagged along with the group looking for birds that are hurt or worse.

Chicago at dawn can be dazzling, sometimes too dazzling for those flying through.

At sunrise, the “Chicago Bird Collision Monitors” go on the hunt. Our glistening buildings are magnets for migrating birds who get confused by the glass that stop some right in their tracks, stunning or killing them.

Annette Prince runs the volunteer group that searches nooks and crannies for hours downtown every day. They find warblers, thrush and other species that are just trying to pass through our area to get to hotter places like South America.

Many discoveries are recovery missions.

“It’s really sad to see that this little guy made this whole trip and he’s dead,” said Prince, bagging and labeling a dead bird found in the Loop. The specimen is sent to the Field Museum.

“The dead birds are important because we use them to document the scope of the problem,” said Prince who hoped the problem of birds vs. buildings would take flight at least a little when Chicago aldermen passed an ordinance requiring the Department of Planning and Development to consider bird safety when approving construction projects with glass.

With a dead bird picked up in front of City Hall in hand, we asked Prince about progress.

“We’re waiting on Chicago to implement. They really have dragged their heels for several years,” she said, telling us there’s no enforcement because guidelines are still being written.

In a statement, the city’s Department of Planning and Development said “DPD is working on updating the Chicago Sustainable Development Policy to include more rigorous bird protection standards, among other enhancements. The update should be ready for public comment and refinement later this year. Implementation would begin in early 2023.”

Chicago Bird Collision Monitors’ grim work intensified over the last week and will continue through November because it is fall migration season.

The good news is not all that’s found is lost. Injured birds are collected and transported for rehabilitation and eventual release.

They’re put in paper bags as the volunteers flank the Loop each morning.

“Paper bags, you can’t suffocate anything. It’s air porous. So they’re in a dark, quiet space where they’re able to sit still,” said Prince.

In all her team rescued more than 80 feathered friends alive and collected 120-plus dead birds in a one square mile radius, before rush hour even hit.

If you find a dead or injured bird? Call, don’t text, the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors Hotline: 773-988-1867.

The non-profit is always looking for volunteers since they’re out every morning and respond to calls throughout the day.

Here is more information about training sessions happening in September.

“We will accept new volunteers who can learn how to participate in our downtown monitoring by attending a small group in-person (outdoor) training 9:00 am on one of the following Saturdays or Sundays:

September 10, 11, 17, 18.

Call 773-456-2473 to register for a training date. You will be given exact location to meet after you have registered.

Or, you can join us for an evening (in-door) training/orientation at 1328 W Randolph at 7:00 p.m., on September 22 or 26. Call 773-456-2473 to register.”

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