To figure out how to save more birds, these Florida volunteers collect thousands of deaths

Few can say that in their careers they prepared 5,000 dead birds.

But Andrew Kratter can.

Kratter, 61, is the head of ornithology collections at the Florida Museum of Natural History, home to 25,000 dead birds and 28,000 bird skeletons. Kratter has been part of the museum for almost 25 years.

Every Wednesday, Kratter and his team spend the day preparing dead birds to add to the museum’s vast research collection.

“I have a group of staff who help us prepare the specimens, as well as students who come to volunteer. So it’s kind of like wearing a lot of hats to move the collection forward, ”Kratter said.

Kratter and his team typically collect dead birds from wildlife rehab clinics in Florida. But last spring, the museum received 61 dead birds from the Lights out in northeast Florida project in Jacksonville.

The Florida Museum of Natural History will be welcoming more birds this fall, as the project kicks off again in time for fall migration, as the birds head south for the winter.

The project organizes volunteers to walk around downtown Jacksonville and pick up dead sidewalk birds that have struck windows and buildings as a result of being distracted by bright lights. The project also encourages high-rise buildings to turn off their lights from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. every night during the spring and fall migration seasons to reduce the number of bird deaths from collisions.

“Our goal is to be Florida’s premier bird collection,” Kratter said. “It’s a good source of birds, as sad as it is. This is very useful if you have things like the Lights Out program to check which birds are killed, instead of just having them tagged by hobbyists who pick them up.

But it will take a village. Jacksonville Zoo, the Duval Audubon Company, the St Johns County Audubon Society and the Florida Museum of Natural History all collaborate on this project.

According to Carol Bailey-White, oven birds are the most common bird species that volunteers find on the streets of downtown Jacksonville. (Ophélie Jacobson / WUFT News)

Mike Taylor, Curator of Herps, Birds and Others at the Jacksonville Zoo, is proud of the way the four organizations have worked together.

“Everyone comes together and we have a common goal… and that helps save the birds,” Taylor said. ” Everyone is on board. “

According to Taylor, the goals of the project are to track window collisions related to nighttime lighting, to make birds that pass through Jacksonville at night safer, to encourage neighborhoods to do their part to reduce the number of collisions with windows and encourage politicians to take bigger action. related to the cause. The data collected on the impacts of windows related to night-time lighting will determine which buildings will be approached to cause them to turn off their non-essential lighting during peak migration.

Taylor said the partnership with the Florida Museum of Natural History has been essential in achieving these goals.

“It’s really good to work with the museum,” Taylor said. “They were very helpful in helping us with what we needed and giving us tips for catching and cataloging birds.”

Pick up the birds

Another organization that plays a key role in the project is the Duval Audubon Society. He organizes volunteers to walk around downtown Jacksonville and find dead birds. Carol Bailey-White, president, typically goes out with a partner once a week on Thursday mornings to search for birds in downtown Jacksonville.

It’s an early morning wake-up call: 6:45 a.m.

“We have a route that we determined as the best way for us to walk around all of these buildings,” Bailey-White said. “It usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half to walk the entire route. “

Bailey-White said she was impressed with the dedication of the volunteers.

“A lot of these people are working full time and they will be leaving before their working day. It’s remarkable the dedication of these volunteers… they are spectacular, ”she said.

Taylor said the volunteers were already on track to find more birds this season than they did in the spring, which means more birds for the Florida Museum of Natural History to add to its research collection. According to Taylor, “there are more birds that migrate, as the young from the breeding season join their parents during the migration.”

The Jacksonville Zoo has listed a total of 20 carcasses since the fall project began on September 16. Volunteers will continue to search for birds until mid-November.

As for the future of the Lights Out Northeast Florida project, Taylor hopes that in five years more buildings will participate in the initiative.

“I would like to see a list of buildings committed to turning off their lights,” Taylor said. “I hope we could have at least 20 or more buildings on this list.”

Kratter hopes this project will not only inspire companies to turn off their lights, but continue to raise awareness among bird populations in crisis.

“Many of these migrants are dropping dramatically and it is important that we know as much as possible about them,” Kratter said. “The Lights Out project can help us better understand their migration and hopefully give us a little more to protect them. That’s the general reason for it all … is to help these dwindling bird populations.

Kratter also said the project provides key data on the status and distribution of migrants over time and space.

“We can see that a particular species migrates in large numbers in late April along the immediate Atlantic coast of Florida. Such data is essential in determining conservation strategies, ”Kratter said. “Turning off lights in skyscrapers during times of high migration can be an important step in halting the decline in populations of this species. “

Other cities in the country are also participating in Curfew programs. This project spans several cities across the country, including Cleveland, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; and New York City, New York.

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