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Football Stadiums and Migrating Birds, Two Approaches

For the most part, there isn’t a ton of overlap between professional football and birds, except perhaps those Sundays in fall with the football fan birder has to make a difficult decision on what to focus their energies. That has changed of late, however, with the construction of a massive new stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that critics from Birdchick’s Sharon Stiteler to the National Audubon Society to the Minneapolis City Council all agree could be a significant hazard for migrating bird by virtue of the extensive glass wall used in the design. Those walls, intended to provide an unobstructed view of the Minneapolis skyline, will unfortunately be nearly invisible to birds.

An artist's drawing of the completed Minnesota Vikings stadium.

An artist’s drawing of the completed Minnesota Vikings stadium.

Minneapolis-based Sharon Stiteler has been all over this from the beginning, attracting attention such that the issue has been picked up by a number of different outlets, from the Guardian to Wired. From Wired’s piece:

The combination of lights and reflective glass is deadly for birds. Estimates of the total number of birds killed yearly by building strikes fall around the 998 million bird mark. Many cities have programs to collect and record the dead, including Minneapolis. In the Twin Cities, 131 different bird species have been collected at the base of buildings; 97% of those birds are native species. It’s not pigeons and starlings that are being killed, it’s Canada Warblers and Golden-Winged Warblers, both identified as “rare or declining” Birds of Conservation Concern.

National Audubon has been on this as well, attempting to work with the Vikings organization to encourage fritted glass, which is subtly etched with markings that are nearly invisible to humans but visible to birds. The cost of replacing the current planned windows with this glass will add about $1.1 million to the $1 billion+ project. The Vikings have declined to do so complaining of “murky” light and aesthetic considerations, and have gone ahead and order the conventional glass which is scheduled to be installed in December. For what it’s worth, the Dallas Cowboys used fritted glass in their recently opened stadium and have received no such complaints.

The Cowboys are only one team with more conscientious approach to their stadiums. The San Francisco 49ers have also made efforts to make their new stadium more responsible, with a solar paneled roof to offset electricity use and plans to recycle 85% of its water. Though admittedly, neither stadium has incorporated such an ambitious window panel into their architectural plans and neither team plays in a part of the US where an enclosed stadium might be necessary.

All said, however, it does appear that the Minnesota Vikings have been given many opportunities to do the right thing and have chosen not to do so. there is still time to make your voice heard before these massive windows are installed and you can do so through National Audubon’s petition to the Minnesota Governor here or you can contact Governor Dayton directly here.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
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