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History of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors

After witnessing the hopeless circling of birds (video at right) around city lights in downtown Chicago in 2002, Robbie Hunsinger, a classical musician, and attorney Ken Wysocki, dedicated themselves to monitoring the city streets, recovering the dead and injured birds that collided with buildings after being fatally attracted to bright lights.

In the late 1990s, the conservation community recognized that huge numbers of birds were dying at buildings where lights remained on during nights of heavy migration. The Lights Out! Chicago program began to encourage building managers to voluntarily reduce lighting during the spring and fall bird migration seasons. By 2002, there were still a limited and inconsistent number of downtown Chicago buildings turning out their lights. Without full participation of all buildings in light reduction, hundreds or even thousands of birds could strike buildings in a single night.

In 2003 Robbie founded Chicago Bird Collision Monitors. She and a small group of dedicated volunteers began regular morning patrols in the Chicago Loop, rescuing injured birds and salvaging dead birds to document the perils of dangerous lighting and building glass. Robbie worked tirelessly to spread awareness of the dangers that lighted buildings pose to birds during migration. She built cooperative relations with the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA) and recruited the participation of property and building management to increase participation in light reduction efforts. In spring 2004, Chicago became the first U.S. city to have its skyline go dark for migration!

Buildings over 60 stories turn off decorative, display, top lighting including logos, clock faces, and signs after 11:00 p.m. All buildings, of any height (particularly those directly on the lakefront) are encouraged to turn off every kind of non-essential lighting possible to create the darkest possible night skyline and lobby lighting.

Lights on.

Lights off.

Thanks to Hunsinger's vision and the continued support of building managers and owners, the darkened Chicago skyline has saved the lives of untold thousands of migrating birds. Since its inception, CBCM has grown into a force of more than 100 volunteers who monitor city buildings during spring and fall migration and promote bird safety through education and outreach throughout the year.

Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM) is an 501(c)(3) bird conservation organization.

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