More than 100 birds slam into glass walls; many die

fWhen the birds started slamming into the glass-walled office building’s breezeway by the dozens, workers at Middleburg Park didn’t know what to do.

A flock of cedar waxwings had flown in to feast on the berries of the half-acre courtyard’s holly trees. But the birds got drunk on the berries and confused by the glass walls of the enclosed three-story courtyard. Disaster ensued.

“It was like an Alfred Hitchcock movie,” said Denise Wilkinson, who works for Providence Hospitals’ Sisters of Charity. “It was spooky.

“You could hear them where they flew into the glass.”

The birds started gathering at the building off Forest Drive on Monday, workers said, but the problem grew worse during Tuesday’s warm, sunny weather.

Workers said they saw more than 100 birds that had flown into the glass, about half of which had died. Many of the rest were injured or stunned.

Carolina Wildlife Care picked up 98 birds Tuesday and Wednesday, 62 of which should recover. The nonprofit group was treating the birds at its Bush River Road facility and planned to release them.

“I really saw birds just smacking the windows everywhere and dropping at your feet,” said Joanna Weitzel, with Carolina Wildlife Care. “This is not usual.”

Cedar waxwings are about 6 inches long. The pale brown birds have a black band across their eyes and yellow-tipped tails.

During summer, the birds typically are found in the Northeast, Midwest, Pacific Northwest and southern Canada, according to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center’s Web site. During winter, the birds are most heavily concentrated between Texas and Georgia, but also in a small area surrounding Columbia.

Naturalist John Audubonwrote that cedar waxwings had a big appetite, even reporting seeing some eat themselves to death.

That appetite might have brought the birds to Middleburg Park.

The building’s owner, Burgess Mills, said he has never seen a flock of birds in his building’s courtyard before.

Landscapers recently trimmed the holly trees, Mills said, which might have caused a bumper crop of berries. The birds, he said, were flying from tree to tree, stripping them of berries.

Some birds were so loopy from the meal, he said, that they fell off tree branches.


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