Safe Passage Great Lakes Days

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​​​​​​​​ 3875 E. Huron River Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48104


Remy Long,
Deputy Manager

Tina Stephens,
Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator

Becky Hand,
Stewardship Specialist

Rachel Maranto,
NAP Supervisor

More than 250 species of night-migrating birds fly over Michigan during their spring and fall migrations, March 15th to May 31st and August 15th to October 31st.  Although these birds use multiple navigation strategies, most rely in some way on the stars and moon.  As birds fly through our well-lit urban areas, the lights of our taller buildings often disorient them.  The birds, confused by the lights, will circle the lit buildings until they either die from exhaustion or collide with the structure.  Scientists estimate that hundreds of millions of birds die as a result of encounters with these brightly-lit tall buildings.

Turning off lights on the fifth floor and above at 11 p.m. - 6 a.m. during peak migration seasons prevents these deaths and also saves​ electricity.  Simply drawing the blinds can also help prevent bird deaths.  Programs similar to the Safe Passage Great Lakes program are already in place in Chicago, New York, Minneapolis, and Toronto. These programs have resulted in less migratory bird deaths.  Michigan Audubon Society is working with Detroit Audubon Society and other local Audubon groups to make this a statewide effort.  The State of Michigan has proclaimed March 15 to May 31 and August 15 to October 31 as Safe Passage Great Lakes Days.​

How To Help Birds During Migration

Owners of tall buildings can join the Safe Passage Great Lakes efforts by turning off ​lights or closing window shades and drapes at night.  Individuals can help by turning off lights when they leave an office or a residence. It also helps to raise awareness by talking to family, friends and colleagues. Individuals who live or work at night in buildings with five floors or higher can also help in the following ways:

  • Use blinds and curtains to conceal lighted areas after 11 p.m.
  • Use desk lamps and task lighting to minimize perimeter lighting.
  • Re-schedule night work. For example, have custodial services work from the top down so the top floor lights are off from 11 p.m. - 6 a.m.​
  • Establish interior working areas for night activities. 

Turning lights off saves birds lives and also will save money, conserve energy, and reduce pollution as well.​

For more information about the Washtenaw Safe Passage Program, see the pages here and here.

Birds cannot see glass, only reflections of the surrounding habitat and sky. For this reason, they often hit windows during the day as well. For ways to make your windows safer for birds, visit American Bird Conservancy and​ Cornell Lab of Ornithology. ​

Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution to support Safe Passage Great Lakes Days on March 16, 2009. You can read the resolution here.

What To Do If You Find A Dead Or Hurt Bird

If you find a bird that has been injured or killed due to a window collision, call the Bird Center of Michigan​ at (734) 761-9640. Remember, injured or stunned birds may look like dead birds. Many bird species, such as raptors or herons, may be dangerous. It is important to talk to experts so that you, and the bird, do not get hurt.

If the injured bird can be safely picked up, please transport it to a rehabilitation facility, such as the Bird Center of Washtenaw County, as soon as possible. ​

Follow the steps below:

  1. Place a flat folded paper towel in the bottom of a non-waxed paper sack or box. A paper grocery or sandwich bag is ideal, or a box with small holes in it. Most birds will do well in a smaller sack. Larger birds such as catbirds, rails, woodcocks, thrashers and woodpeckers, should go into a paper grocery​ bag or box.  If you find an injured raptor or heron-type bird, call the Howell Nature Center at (517) 548-5530 for instructions on how to handle it.
  2. Gently pick up the bird and put it into the bottom of the bag or box. Try to keep the bird upright. Fold down the top of the bag and clip it closed​ so that the bird cannot jump or fly out.
  3. Put the bag or box in a dark, quiet and protected location (preferably indoors).  Do not open the bag to check on the bird, this is dangerous. T​he bird may try to escape and cause further injury. If the bird is active, please put another towel or blanket over the box or bag. Light makes them active.
  4. Please call the Bird Center of Washtenaw County at (734) 761-9640 for instructions on transporting the bird to their clinic. If necessary,  leave the time, your name, a number where you can be reached, and your location. If you cannot rescue the bird, leave the above information and the location and condition of the bird.
  5. Do not give the bird food or water as this can be very dangerous for a stunned bird. It can even kill the bird.

If you find a dead bird, you may contact the Bird Division of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology to donate the bird to their collection of research specimens. Contact Collection Manager Brett Benz ([email protected]) or Curator Ben Winger ([email protected]). First, place the bird in a tightly closed plastic bag. Then, put it in your freezer until you are able to arrange to drop it off. Include a note with the species, date found, location, possible cause of death, and your name.