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BirdSafe Maine – Fall 2023 Season Summary

October 31 was the final morning for our Fall 2023 BirdSafe Maine route in Portland. It marked the end of another successful season, but in that somber way that these seasons are “successful”: we once again proved that migratory birds are dying against glass windows in Portland and around the state.

Despite the continued challenges, there were real bright spots this fall. I continue to be amazed at the volunteer participation for this program. More than 50 volunteers walked the route at least once this season offering to wake up in the wee hours in the name of bird conservation. Thank you!

Plus, we’re seeing continued growth in the awareness of this issue among the public and the building and design community. People and companies are beginning to take action and see real results. For an example, read the section about MEMIC below.

Finally, major thanks to Cady Netland, who concluded her year-long Fellowship with BirdSafe Maine, via the Greater Portland Council of Governments, this fall. Cady was a major asset, and we wish her all the best.

Click here for more information about our project and about bird safe solutions that may work for your windows.

Brown Thrasher, Portland, found 10/13/23 by Tova Mellen

On the Route

Each season, BirdSafe Maine volunteers walk a specific two-mile route through Portland looking for dead and injured birds on the sidewalk. This season our volunteers found 113 birds on the route this season, our second-deadliest fall ever. Despite what felt like a slower-than-usual migration along the East Coast (consistent east winds pushed many migrants towards the middle of the country), many birds still found themselves in harm’s way on the peninsula.

• We found a total of 39 different species on the route this fall, illustrating the broad swath of birdlife at risk of collision. The most frequently found species were Common Yellowthroat (17), White-throated Sparrow (15), and Swamp Sparrow (12).

• We also found several first-time or unusual species. A Connecticut Warbler found by the Kahlenberg family and Marsha C. on Sept. 15 was our first ever of this enigmatic species, and just one of a few records from anywhere in Maine this fall. A Nelson’s Sparrow found by Susan M. on Oct. 23 was a first for our count, and a big surprise. Tova M. found a White-crowned Sparrow, also on Oct. 23, that was another first. Finally, we found three Blackpoll Warblers this fall, a noteworthy species as it was listed as Threatened on the Maine Endangered Species Act just this year.

• The other species we encountered include: American Redstart; American Robin; American Woodcock; Black-and-white Warbler; Blue-headed Vireo; Brown Creeper; Brown Thrasher; Eastern Phoebe; Eastern Wood-Pewee; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Gray Catbird; Hermit Thrush; House Wren; Lincoln’s Sparrow; Nashville Warbler; Northern Parula; Northern Waterthrush; Ovenbird; Palm Warbler; Pine Warbler; Red-eyed Vireo; Rose-breasted Grosbeak; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-throated Hummingbird; Savannah Sparrow; Scarlet Tanager; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Song Sparrow; Swainson’s Thrush; White-crowned Sparrow; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

• We found birds at at least 46 different addresses along the route. Once again, the most birds were found at 1 Hancock St., the building currently occupied by WEX. Other leading addresses include 110 Thames Street (the SunLife building); 125 Fore Street (the new building occupied by Covetrus); and 1 Portland Square (occupied by TD Bank).

• The most amazing news is what happened at 261 Commercial Street, occupied by MEMIC. For years, this building—especially the backside alley adjacent to the Portland Harbor Hotel—was where we found the most birds, including a whopping 44 individuals last fall. After consulting with BirdSafe Maine, MEMIC undertook a major application of bird-safe decals along the back alley, which was completed in October. The results are conclusive: We found a total of 8 birds in the alley this fall (even though the decals were only partially in place for most of the season), an 82% drop over last season. This is significant progress, and I can’t thank Tony Payne and his crew at MEMIC enough for their efforts.

Off Route

BirdSafe Maine also collects reports of bird strikes from around the state. We were made aware of 35 bird strikes from around the state this fall. This number is just a tiny fraction of the total bird strikes (residential strikes are much harder to detect), but we heard from a towns all over the state, including Albany Township; Berwick; Falmouth; Farmington; Freeport; Lisbon Falls; Millinocket; North Berwick; Orr’s Island; Portland; Saco; South Portland; Waterville; Wells; Westport Island; Windham; Yarmouth; and York. Special thanks as always to Center for Wildlife in York for sending reports of their window-strike patients our way.

• Species reported from elsewhere largely mirrored what we saw in Portland, but there were several new species, including American Goldfinch; Belted Kingfisher; Cape May Warbler; Hairy Woodpecker; House Finch; House Sparrow; Mourning Dove; and Northern Flicker.

• BirdSafe Maine continues to accept bird strike reports all winter long, so please reach out if you see anything. We’ve already received five reports since Nov. 1, including a Ruffed Grouse that struck a window in Carrabassett Valley.

• More amazing news came from Yarmouth. Last year, BirdSafe Maine volunteer Sonya Kahlenberg helped lead an effort with Yarmouth Elementary School teacher Nicole Colfer to design and implement a curriculum for fourth-graders based around bird migration and the threats birds encounter along the way. The curriculum was a success, and the kids were hooked. One hoped-for outcome was that the school would treat some of their windows at the school to make them bird safe, but the funds weren’t available. Fast forward to this year, however, and the now-fifth graders returned to school to find more dead birds at school windows. Two separate groups of students, all on their own, wrote to school officials to ask them to do something about all the glass (read one of the notes here). The school responded, and is planning on installing Accopian BirdSavers-type solutions at the school. Thanks, kids!

American Redstart found in Penobscot County, 9/17/23

Looking Ahead

The BirdSafe Maine team is looking forward to catching up on sleep and thinking about next steps. The most pressing issue is our draft bird safe architecture ordinance, which passed through the Portland City Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee this fall and will come before the full Council in 2024. This month’s election has changed the makeup of city government and the Council significantly, but we look forward to getting new members up to speed on our work and the importance of considering bird safety before buildings are built.

If you’d like to stay in touch with BirdSafe Maine this winter and beyond, please consider joining our Planning Team, a small group of dedicated volunteers that meet bi-weekly to discuss our work. We’re a fun team, and would love to have you. Reach out to me at nlund AT if you’re interested. Thank you!