Protecting migratory birds in Missouri can be as easy as flipping a switch

By Shawna Bethell

When I moved from open country to the lush Missouri landscape, I quickly became aware of the many species of birds living in the tangle of green behind my home. 

Pulled into the ebb and flow of their presence and their migrations, I became fascinated by the instinct that drives them, the adaptation processes of their seemingly fragile bodies, and how they survive the thousands of miles they must endure. 

I also came to understand that one of the most dire obstacles they face in survival is one that we can easily protect them from.

“Many birds can’t get to where they are going if they can’t navigate by the stars,” said Dana Ripper, co-director of the Missouri River Bird Observatory (MRBO). 

A favorite of backyard birders, ruby-throated hummingbirds often fall victim to window and building collision. They have been found in significant number during surveys conducted by BirdSafeKC.

And with the ever-increasing sprawl of artificial lighting, birds are at a disadvantage. 

Ripper said that migrating birds are often drawn out of migration and down into urban areas by following artificial light.

Once this happens, they become disoriented and thus vulnerable to dangers, including window collision, the second leading cause of bird mortality behind domestic cats (and not including general habitat loss). 

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