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Stadium Bird Study Takes Flight

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

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The exterior facade of the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis may have a deadly effect on birds.

To study the issue, the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority (MSFA) says it, along with the Minnesota Vikings National Football League team, will spend $300,000 on a scientific evaluation aimed at monitoring bird-window collisions at the new $1.1 billion home of the Vikings.

Lead by Audubon Minnesota, National Audubon Society, University of Minnesota and Oklahoma State University, the study will begin in the spring of 2017, with a final analysis expected by 2019. 

Bird advocates have long voiced concern over the glass facade and its potential impact on the Mississippi River migratory flyway, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune.

According to the building's architect, Dallas-based HKS, the structure’s exterior features 200,000 square feet of glass and glazed curtain walls along with zinc metal panels which will patina over time.

Study before Solution

“We are pleased to announce that we are collaborating with the Audubon on a study over four migratory seasons to determine if the stadium has a problem with bird migration,” said MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen. “If we identify that there is a problem, we can partner with 3M to provide a bird safe solution.”

Kelm-Helgen had initially rejected the idea of installing bird-safe glass, noting it would likely alter the planned reflective and airy aesthetic.

During a recent MSFA meeting, Kelm-Helgen said that construction crews had not observed birds hitting the glass windows during construction over the past year.

But she agreed to a scientific study to see if a problem existed, before embarking on a solution. Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley added, “[W]e want to be good community partners, and this is an important issue.”

Migratory Analysis

The study will be designed “immediately,” officials said. Following its completion, researchers will recommend management actions to reduce bird-building collisions at the stadium.

Migratory birds such as hummingbirds, thrushes, warblers, and native sparrows migrate to or through Minnesota in large numbers and are known to be especially vulnerable to collisions, the bird advocates note.

“Window collisions are one of the leading causes of bird mortality and they are largely preventable,” said Joanna Eckles, Bird-Friendly Communities manager for Audubon Minnesota. “This study will help fill in gaps in our knowledge and continue to improve our ability to generate and promote solutions.”

By supporting scientific monitoring of bird collisions, the MSFA and the Vikings are contributing to the conservation of migratory birds by improving our scientific understanding of bird collisions, an emerging field of study in both the conservation and architecture communities, according to the National Audubon Society.

‘More Stalling’

Some wonder what took officials so long to act and worry the study will be “more stalling.”

State Sen. Scott Dibble suggests the installation of a protective film as well as the study. “Then we won’t have to kill any more birds in the meantime,” he told the Star Tribune.

The MSFA and the Vikings have also committed to participate in Audubon’s “Lights Out” program, joining many other iconic Twin Cities buildings in their effort to reduce collision risk by reducing light pollution during spring and fall migration.

The U.S. Bank Stadium was designed by HKS and built by Mortenson Construction. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new venue was held Friday (July 22).


Tagged categories: Building facades; Building owners; Color + Design; Design; Glass; North America; Stadiums/Sports Facilities

Comment from Jesse Melton, (7/26/2016, 9:15 AM)

"..."and are known to be especially vulnerable to collisions, the bird advocates note." How is that conclusion reached? Little bird shaped crash test dummies? It's a valid question. If vulnerability is being assessed by counting corpses isn't it possible those birds were the dumb or otherwise impaired birds? How many hit and bounced off with no real harm done? It's perfectly acceptable to say something like "flying into windows kills a lot of birds" or "buildings refusing to move kill lots of birds". However, without significant empirical evidence it's invalid to say "Bird-X is especially vulnerable to collisions". Such a statement reeks of favoritism. Where's the turkey vulture on that list of migratory birds? Exploiting hummingbirds and warblers just because everyone likes hummingbirds and, presumably, warblers shakes the foundations of the debate. I want to see the anti-window crowd include all the migratory birds that come through Minnesota, not just the adorable ones.

Comment from ELIZABETH FRENCHMAN, (7/26/2016, 9:19 AM)

The newly renovated Javits Center here in NYC (FX Fowle) is extremely airy with its bird-safe glass. Just sayin'.

Comment from ELIZABETH FRENCHMAN, (7/28/2016, 5:20 PM)

Jesse Melton, there is plenty of empirical evidence to back up all the claims in this brief article. Google is your friend. Go visit American Bird Conservancy or the Audubon Society websites. I have a feeling your beef is with eco efforts, though, and facts will not sway you.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (7/28/2016, 9:26 PM)

Lady, the only reason my house is connected to any external utility is because it's required by law here to obtain and retain a certificate of occupancy and my insurance carrier demands it. If I've got a beef with anything it's the education system that clearly fails to teach reading comprehension. In my day we were taught to read everything presented before proffering up commentary. I know that 140 characters is about the limit for today's average grad student, but pushing past that barrier is time well spent.

Comment from Brian Hierlihy, (7/30/2016, 11:24 AM)

Regarding bird kills, this is done science. See, for example, Information on this topic is readily available all over the web.

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