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The Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis and other wildlife advocates are bringing some of the nation's top bird mortality experts to town as they renew their push to protect birds from fatal collisions with the glass walls of U.S. Bank Stadium.
One of the experts already has a remedy: window film.
Armed with information from the experts, the wildlife groups hope to issue a report by Jan. 1 and use it as a springboard for a bird-safety solution to be in place by spring 2020, said Jerry Bahls, president of the Audubon chapter.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and the Vikings football team are paying for a separate study by university researchers due next year.
Bahls and others have said for years that U.S. Bank Stadium, which has 200,000 square feet of exterior glass in downtown Minneapolis, would be a death trap for birds. During the 2016 fall migration season, 60 birds died and 14 were injured after colliding with the stadium's glass windows, according to a February 2017 study conducted by the local Audubon chapter, the Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds, and the Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary.
Daniel Klem, professor of ornithology and conservation biology at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, will kick off the series of bird safety talks on Wednesday with a presentation at the Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley.
For decades, a mountain of data has warned of the dangers of bird-glass collisions, said Klem, who has studied the issue since the 1970s. But in the end, the building's owner or operator needs to recognize that and buy into a solution, he said.
This is a worldwide issue. I just say, It's the glass, stupid,' said Klem in an interview. He plans to tour U.S. Bank Stadium before his presentation.
Asked about his recommendations for the stadium, Klem said he would offer what is available, which is window film. He said exterior window films have been effective at other locations, such as the Toronto Zoo, in protecting birds.
Protective window film can be applied on either the interior or exterior side of the glass, he said. The danger of collisions is much greater on the building's lower level, especially when there's vegetation around, he added.
Other speakers coming to town in future weeks include Christine Sheppard, the bird collisions campaign manager for the Virginia-based American Bird Conservancy, and Michael Mesure, the executive director and co-founder of the Toronto-based Fatal Light Awareness Program.
The Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds says on itswebsitethat birds are vulnerable to glass because they can't distinguish between an actual object and a reflection of the object.
The U.S. Bank Stadium is on the Mississippi flyway, and about 50 percent of North America's migratory birds pass over the flyway during spring and fall migration, according to the Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds.
Citing a study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Institution, the Minnesota Audubon Society says up to 988 million birds are killed each year by colliding with buildings in the nation.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources warned of bird-mortality concerns at the stadium as far back as 2012. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority says it's looking into bird-safety issues with a four-year study that will conclude in 2019. Previously, the MSFA talked about partnering with Maplewood-based 3M Co. on a bird-safety solution. The MSFA on Monday declined to comment on the status of the 3M partnership.
Based on the fall 2016 migration period, about 360 birds would be killed over a three-year period or six migration periods at U.S. Bank Stadium, according to the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis study. By comparison, the highest mortality recorded for a single building in Minneapolis was 250 birds over three years.
Jenn Hathaway, communications director for the MSFA, said in an email that Audubon Minnesota, in collaboration with Oklahoma State University and the University of Minnesota, has started a scientific study of bird collisions at the stadium.
Results of the $300,000 study, funded by the MSFA and the Vikings, will be available in 2019, she said.
The findings will be subject to peer review prior to publication, a process that will ensure the highest possible transparency, validity, and credibility of the study, Hathaway said. The MSFA, the Minnesota Vikings and Audubon Minnesota will continue to work collaboratively to ensure that these protocols are implemented appropriately.
Bahls said his group didn't perform a bird mortality study in fall 2017 because OSUand its research partners were already doing the same thing as part of the study funded by the MSFA and the Vikings football team.
Bahls said he hopes to get more information about bird-window collisions and potential solutions for U.S. Bank Stadium from the national experts.
The main emphasis is about retrofitting the stadium. It's not going to be, Take out the glass,' or something ridiculous. We hope to have something they will have to seriously consider doing, Bahls said.
Klem's presentation on Wednesday begins at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, with a suggested donation of $5.
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