Environment

These Environmentalists' Worst Fear About This Stadium Is Coming True

The Minnesota Vikings have a brand spanking new stadium, and new research shows that it's a killer. 

An AP photo of the U.S. Bank Stadium before a game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017.

A report by three environmental conservation organizations, led by the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, estimated that the stadium will kill hundreds of birds in the near future, including several species that are already threatened, if officials don't take action. 

A juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird.

The 60 bird deaths at U.S. Bank Stadium during the 2016 fall bird migration "exceeds that of the worst bird-killing building documented" in a recent study on bird collisions. The report's researchers estimated that 360 birds will be killed a three year period if no changes. The report also concedes that this number is probably too low, considering stadium staff reportedly disposed of birds, and some parts of the stadium, like ledges, were not accessible. The number also doesn't take into account birds that could have flown away stunned and died in a different location. 

Between 365 and 988 million birds are killed by building collisions every year in the U.S., which is as much as 10 percent of the total American bird population, according to a 2014 study. Each skyscraper kills an average of 24 birds a year, compared to the 60 the stadium killed in one fall migration season. 

Why is the stadium killing so many birds? 

A song sparrow perched on a wire.

Birds have a hard time distinguishing between reflections in glass and real objects, and the new stadium includes 200,000 square feet of reflective glass. 

"When birds try to fly to the reflected habitat, they collide with the glass," reads the report. "Reflected vegetation has been shown to be the most dangerous, but birds also attempt to fly past reflected buildings or through reflected passageways, with fatal results."

What needs to be done? 

The researchers recommended that the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority take immediate action to prevent bird deaths, including placing patterns and window films on the stadium glass, and adding awnings, overhangs, and nets in some places, steps that can also reduce bird deaths in smaller buildings and houses. Although thousands of larger buildings and skyscrapers proportionally kill more birds in the U.S., the millions of low-rises and houses actually kill a greater total number of birds, according to The Washington Post. 

Fans walk to the Minnesota Vikings U.S. Bank Stadium before a game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Jim Williams, who writes about birds for the Star Tribune's Wingnut blog, wrote that the team owners, public officials, and the U.S. Bank should work to fix the problem to avoid a damaged public image.  

"Birds have died flying into the 200,000 square feet of glass at U.S. Bank Stadium, our football castle. More birds will die. There will be stories, and U.S. Bank will be in the first sentence every time, up there with the dead birds. Bad public relations. The bank should consider being part of the solution to the carnage.

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