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Exotic Birds Killed by Skyscrapers Remembered in Nature Museum Photo Series

By Justin Breen | February 26, 2016 5:43am | Updated on February 26, 2016 10:33pm
 To bring attention to the death and injuries sustained by more than 3,000 migratory birds that collide into Chicago buildings each year, The Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum welcomes an exhibit of songbird portraits, by local photographer Art Fox.
To bring attention to the death and injuries sustained by more than 3,000 migratory birds that collide into Chicago buildings each year, The Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum welcomes an exhibit of songbird portraits, by local photographer Art Fox.
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Art Fox

DOWNTOWN — Thousands of birds migrating through Chicago each year fall prey to the city's high-rises and other buildings.

A just-opened exhibit at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum features photographs of the cardinals, orioles, thrushes, juncos, sapsuckers and other birds that die after flying into buildings. The exhibit — "Broken Journey" — showcases pictures taken by West Loop-based photographer Art Fox and pairs them with song recordings of each species.

“To me, these birds, though dead, appear strangely alive,” Fox said in a release. “Perhaps such an exhibit would help further the mission of those who try to rescue injured birds, and to study those who have died, in order for science to understand and prevent the causes of this collision between nature and mankind.”

Fox, 67, told DNAinfo: "These are literally exotic birds, some from Central and South America that were passing through Chicago when they died."

Hundreds of species of birds migrate to Chicago in the middle of the night during the migration seasons of mid-August to mid-November in the fall, and mid-March to mid-June in the spring.

The birds use the stars as their navigation system, but they can become confused by the lights on city skyscrapers. They sometimes spend hours circling buildings before becoming exhausted or colliding with a building, mistaking glass for sky.

Members of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors stalk The Loop every day for half the year in search of migratory birds injured from hitting skyscraper windows. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center estimates 365 million to 988 million birds are killed in collisions in the United States each year. In the 1½ square miles Chicago Bird Collision Monitors' 100 volunteers can cover, they pick up about 5,000 birds per year.

About 2,000 birds are found alive and taken to a wildlife center in suburban Willowbrook.

But the 3,000 birds that are found dead each year by the collision monitors are turned over to the Field Museum's research collection. Each year, the museum gets about 70 visitors who use the bird collection. Another 130 collection loans are shipped around the country.

Birds die flying into buildings all over Chicago, including at Loyola's Rogers Park campus, where  warblers, sparrows, thrushes, woodpeckers and even a kingfisher have died or been severely injured after colliding with some of the university buildings' large glass windows. Dead birds also have been found at the foot of buildings on the campuses of Northeastern Illinois, DePaul and Northwestern universities, according to Annette Prince, manager of the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors program.

Fox said the exhibit has 15 photos, and he took about 60 total. He first became interested in bird migration when he found a dead summer tanager on the balcony of his West Loop condo in 2014. He began taking photos of dead birds Downtown and in his neighborhood and near the Field Museum and Loyola's campus.

He approached Notebaert officials last summer with the exhibit idea.

"It's just something I got interested in and realized as I got into it that there was a theme and an interest," Fox said. "It gave me an incredibly close view of what a bird really looks like. You don't get to usually see birds in such detail."

For more information, click here. Check out some of the photos (of a Canada warbler, cardinal and Baltimore oriole) by Art Fox below.

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