DOWNTOWN — Leaders at McCormick Place Lakeside Center plan to close the blinds every night to prevent bird collisions following increased criticism from advocates after 1,000 birds died from crashing into the building during one day in October.
More than 10,000 people signed a petition asking for the lights to be turned off every night at McCormick Place Lakeside Center, 2301 S. Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive. The petition was delivered to the leadership team at Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which owns the building, during its monthly board meeting Monday.
Instead of turning the lights off when the building is occupied, leaders at Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority plan to consistently close the blinds and are considering other bird-safety adjustments, according to a news release.
“We’ve heard from people monitoring for birds in the area that they’ve been following through on drawing the shades,” said Annette Price, director of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors. “That’s a really positive thing, and we’re so glad. The leadership team has expressed to us that they’re taking this very seriously.”
To further protect birds, leaders are considering installing bird-safe film and barriers on the outside of the glass as well as adding additional decals inside windows, more shades and drapery inside and motorized controls for existing shades, according to the news release.
These changes would make the windows more visible to birds and make it easier for the building’s occupants to draw the shades each night.
“In the long term, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority is exploring plans to renovate Lakeside Center,” according to the owners. “One of the purposes of the renovations is to make Lakeside Center more sustainable and environmentally friendly, including new bird-friendly options for the building.”
For decades, advocates have raised concerns about McCormick Place’s Lakeside Center because so many birds are killed colliding into windows there.
Birds struggle to identify and avoid windows. Thousands are killed as they migrate from colliding with the glass on buildings Downtown, particularly those along the lakefront. Birds are especially attracted to windows when lights are left on at night, experts say.
Chicago’s Lights Out program — which has buildings turn off lights to avoid bird collisions — only requires the lights be off when a building isn’t occupied, according to the city’s website. Turning off the lights when the building isn’t in use has reduced bird collisions at McCormick Place Lakeside Center by 80 percent.
Board meeting attendees thanked advocates for sharing information about how they can better protect birds, Prince said. Some said they weren’t aware so many birds were killed annually from colliding with the building’s windows, Prince said.
“We’re hoping that they prioritize making changes because these birds’ lives are not replaceable,” Prince said. “We’re cautiously optimistic and hopeful that things will change because so many people are interested and keeping an eye on this situation to make sure they’re held accountable for the improvements for bird safety they ought to make.”
Since the hundreds of birds died Oct. 4-5, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority has met with representatives from the American Bird Conservancy, Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, Chicago Bird Alliance, Chicago Ornithological Society, Fatal Light Awareness Program, Never Collide and PETA.
Advocates hope to continue meeting with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority so they can help its leaders invest in the most effective, long-term solutions that can best protect migrating birds, Prince said.
“Despite our existing efforts, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority still intends to do more to protect migrating bird populations,” according to the owners. “We have accelerated our efforts to identify both short- and long-term solutions.”
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