Hundreds of Chimney Swifts strike NASCAR building in Charlotte

Dozens of Chimney Swifts lie dead while another rests in a rehabber’s grip. Photos courtesy Carolina Waterfowl Rescue

A wildlife rehabilitation facility in the Charlotte, North Carolina, metro area is in “desperate need” of donations and volunteers today as it cares for hundreds of Chimney Swifts that flew into huge glass windows on Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame building in downtown Charlotte.

Workers from Carolina Waterfowl Rescue collected 310 swifts from the pavement outside the Hall of Fame last night. About one third of them were dead and 10 had to be euthanized. Another 100 birds had severe injuries, including broken wings, legs, or other fractures, and the other third appeared to be stunned “and will hopefully be released in a few days,” according to a Facebook post from the group.

Local news station WSOC reported that a colony of swifts may have been disturbed and flown into the windows. The event occurred after dark, and since swifts migrate during daylight, it’s unlikely that they were migrating at the time of the collisions.

The TV broadcast includes cell-phone video from a witness showing some birds striking the glass and many others lying on the ground. The lights were on inside the building at the time. (Nighttime lighting and glass windows are deadly for birds.) 

A spokesperson for the NASCAR Hall of Fame tells me the building “has been open for nearly 10 years and nothing like this has ever happened before. We are in ongoing conversations to try to determine the root cause of this incident since… swifts are not nocturnal migratory birds.”

In a statement dated October 16, the Hall of Fame said:

“We welcome the opportunity to meet with representatives from the Audubon Society and learn what may be the root cause of this regrettable incident. The NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza is a public space that is frequented well into the night, and evening events are a critical component of the NASCAR Hall’s success. Finding a balance between operations and safety is our goal.  After learning more, we are willing to evaluate potential adjustments that we hope would mitigate future occurrences.  Following the conclusion of a scheduled event at the Hall tonight, we will reduce lighting to a minimal level. Continued dialogue to address concerns regarding this matter is important to us.”

Donations welcome

Carolina Waterfowl says its workers are hand-feeding each surviving Chimney Swift, so it needs funds to pay for their care and feeding. Here are five ways to donate:

Cwr.networkforgood.com 
Cwrescue.org/donate 
Patreon.com/waterfowlrescue 
Venmo: cwrescue
Paypal.me/waterfowlrescue

And if you’re in the area and can volunteer, here’s how to sign up, or check the group’s Facebook page. 

Glass and light: an extra-lethal combination

“Glass creates dangerous illusions for birds and we must always keep this in mind,” says Christine Sheppard, American Bird Conservancy’s Bird Collisions Campaign Director. “And when light shines through glass at night, this can be an extra-lethal combination.”

“Turning off unnecessary lights can help birds, while saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” says Sheppard. “There are simple fixes we can make to reduce the reflective and translucent nature of glass and prevent bird deaths. We should get serious about that.”

American Bird Conservancy adds: “We invite NASCAR to work with us on efforts to reduce their lighting at night and to retrofit their building’s glass to make it bird friendly.”

Updated October 17 with comments from American Bird Conservancy.
Updated October 21 with comments from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

 

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and BirdWatchingDaily.com. He joined the staff of BirdWatching (formerly Birder’s World) in 2000 and has worn many hats over the years: reporter, story wrangler, photo editor, managing editor, and now editor. Originally from Omaha, he lives with his wife and two daughters in Milwaukee and holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from Marquette University. You can reach Matt at (617) 706-9098 and [email protected].

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