On the morning of May 5th, the Galveston Police Department were called to the American National Insurance Company’s 23-story skyscraper, where they found a horrifying sight: nearly 400 songbirds collided with the building overnight, killing all but three. In response, the building’s owners have decided to shut down the structure’s exterior lights for the remainder of the migratory season.
Storms swept through the area on the night of May 4th, and the weather might have prompted the birds to seek shelter, putting them in a collision course for the skyscraper, which is illuminated at night. The reflection of those exterior lights in the windows might have disoriented the birds, causing them to crash into the glass.
Authorities identified 25 different species involved in the incident, and The Audubon Society notes that the spring migration season for songbirds is currently underway, and that the area is a frequent stopping point for birds headed north.
This incident is unusual due to the high number of birds involved, according to Josh Henderson, Galveston’s animal control supervisor, who spoke to the Houston Chronicle. The dead birds will be sent to Texas A&M University and Louisiana State University’s Museum of Natural Science, while the three survivors were taken to the Wildlife Center of Texas in Houston to be rehabilitated.
Bruce LePard, the American National Insurance Company’s senior vice president and chief human resources officer, noted that this is the first time in the building’s history that there’s been an incident like this, and after meeting with the local Audubon Society: “We determined the first thing to do was to make the building less of an attraction to migrating birds,” and will be shutting the lights down for the remainder of the migratory season. The company plans to take further action by working to raise awareness birds in the region, according to the Houston Audubon Society.
Henderson told The Verge in an email that the Houston Audubon Society is also looking to implement an alert system for businesses that will “help identify not only the start and stop of migration,” but other days in which other steps are needed. He also noted that they’re reaching out to other business owners to prepare for the fall migration later this year.
Updated to include statement from Josh Henderson.