It is very sad to see a bird die because it crashed into a window, thinking it was flying into the sky. This has been happening for years, and we are likely to see more cases as more buildings are built, with shiny reflective surfaces and as we install more glass windows.
A bird with its fragile, light skull flies for the reflected sky or trees at high speeds and instead strikes a window and is killed.
This is all the more tragic when a northern-winter migrant like the blue-winged pitta, having survived the long journey south from Myanmar or Thailand, dies in Singapore from a window strike.
Several dead blue-winged pittas have tragically been reported in the last month in Singapore. This afternoon, we learnt that even our corridor window, in the present configuration of our landscape, is creating such a mirage. A blue winged pitta crashed with enough force to scratch the window.
Teutoburg sent me these photos from the impact site at the Department of Biological Sciences block S2 at NUS Science:
The bird-struck a window pane at NUS S2 (13 Nov 2013; photo by Teutoburg)
Yet another blue-winged pitta casualty – this time at the Department of Biological Sciences’ Block S2 in NUS (13 Nov 2013; photo by Teutoburg)
A dead thrush at NUS S4 (13 Nov 2013; photo by Marcus Chua)
It’s sad to see so many cases. Just last week Jude Yew called in a white-breasted waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) lying dead near NUS Central Library. I rushed down to examine the bird and it’s awkward neck suggested that this too was another victim of urbanisation.
The dead white breasted waterhen collected by Jude Yew near Central Library (08 Nov 2013).
David preparing to extract a DNA sample from the waterhen (08 Nov 2013)
We collect the dead specimens to extract a DNA sample and ultimately deposit the bird with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research in NUS (which will open in new premises in late 2014 as the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum).
Birdboy David Tan is a member of our birdman’s (Frank Rheindt) lab and has responded to many calls to pick up specimens, after which he extracts a DNA sample and stores the labelled bird in a freezer in his lab. Like Marcus Chua, it is a great help having young body snatchers who ensure such lives are not wasted.
It is obvious though that we have to think about doing more. As you can imagine, bird deaths from window strikes are a problem around the world, and there are solutions we can adopt, to be more hospitable to our feathered friends in this continuously changing new urban landscape of ours.
And we have just been served notice that we should begin at our very own doorstep.
See the Straits Times article, “Team flocks to collect dead birds for research” which features Frank and David on the subject of dead bird collections and why the Avian Genetics Laboratory wants the carcassses. You can call or message David Tan at 9176-8971 if you see a dead bird you think he might be interested in.