Planting fruit-bearing trees near buildings with reflective windows can be dangerous for some birds.
By Joseph Okoniewski
The choice of plants for a project can have unintended negative consequences
for local or transient wildlife. As a biologist with the Wildlife Pathology
Unit (WPU) of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,
I investigated two incidents in the Albany, New York, area last fall that
grimly illustrate a problem concerning a popular flowering tree and the birds
attracted to its fruit.
In late October 2004, the wpu received a call from an anonymous worker in
a building located next to a nature preserve. The caller reported that an
unprecedented number of birds were flying into the windows of the building.
When I arrived at the scene, the nature of the problem was immediately apparent.
First, the building featured large windows with highly reflective tinted glassvirtual
mirrors. Second, a row of ornamental crabapple trees (Malus SPP.) heavily
laden with small, juicy fruit was situated about three meters from the side
of the building facing the natural area. Third, the thin, high-pitched calls
of cedar waxwings, perhaps the most frugivorous bird in North America, could
be heard from the trees along the nature preserve boundary.
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