Article by: LIBOR JANY , Star Tribune
Updated: May 10, 2014 - 2:32 PM
With reports that migratory birds are hitting the new Hastings bridge, a study hopes to provide insight.
Bridges, along with other man-made structures, pose a threat to birds. Migratory birds have crashed into the Hastings bridge.
Sure, Mark Martell had heard of birds crashing into man-made structures, such as skyscrapers, wireless communication towers and wind turbines — often fatally.
“It might just be something about the height of the bridge, but I don’t know,” said Martell, director of bird conservation for Audubon Minnesota, after hearing reports that migratory birds were flying into the new Hwy. 61 Hastings bridge or becoming entangled in the cables holding up the $130 million span that connects the historic river town to Washington County. But while environmentalists and bird experts have spent years studying how buildings in urban areas came to be such prolific bird killers, little such research has been done on bridges, Martell said.
He hopes a new study, commissioned by the state Department of Transportation, will change that.
The study will be conducted amid concerns that birds flying back from their wintering grounds in Central and South America may be killed or injured by flying into the bridge, which crosses the avian expressway that is the Mississippi River.
More than 300 species of birds — “millions, if not billions” — fly along the river to and from their wintering grounds, said the park service’s Paul Labovitz, who serves as superintendent of the Mississippi River National River and Recreation Area.
“I watched a flight of pelicans one summer day flying over that took 15 minutes to pass over me,” Labovitz said last week. “So the numbers are staggering.”