An eastern meadowlark, recently killed in a collision with a Chicago building. (Courtesy of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors)

Spring migration is still weeks away from reaching its peak in Chicago and already the tiny body bags are piling up, filled with birds killed in collisions with the city’s glass buildings.

Some of the birds gathered by the Field Museum that were killed in October 2023 after colliding with McCormick Place Lakeside Center. (Courtesy of Taylor Hains)

In mid-April, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development is set to release an update to the city’s sustainable development policy. No section of the policy will make bird-friendly design mandatory.

McCormick Place Lakeside Center's walls of glass and location on the lakefront are a deadly combination for birds. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Monday’s meeting of the McPier board was dominated by discussion of the mass death of 1,000 birds in a single day, killed after colliding with McCormick Place. Bird conservationists want a solution in place by spring migration.

(Courtesy of the Field Museum)

The Chicago organization is joined by chapters in Detroit and Wisconsin in dropping “Audubon” and adopting the more inclusive, collaborative “Alliance.”

From a distance, 1229 West Concord in Lincoln Yards looks like every other glass tower in Chicago. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Sterling Bay’s first completed structure at its $6 billion Lincoln Yards riverfront development was constructed with bird-friendly glass. The use of the material is one of several features intended to minimize the sorts of deadly bird collisions Chicago just witnessed in record numbers.

A team at the Field Museum processes birds killed in collisions with McCormick Place during a massive migratory wave Oct. 4-5, 2023. (Daryl Coldren / Field Museum)

While the full tally of dead will never be known, wildlife advocates are certain of one thing: The vast majority of bird losses in the past week were preventable.

John James Audubon's illustrations are still revered, but the naturalist's troubling history is being called into question. (Biodiversity Heritage Library)

As a more complete, and complex, portrait has emerged of John James Audubon, birders and ornithologists have struggled to reconcile their missions with the troubling aspects of his legacy: buying and selling slaves, plagiarism and the exploitation of natural resources.  

Orland Grassland, a thousand-acre restored prairie. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

“There are places you walk where you see sky touching the earth, and you can imagine this as the gateway to the Grand Prairie,” site steward Pat Hayes said of Orland Grassland.

Charlotte Pavelka and Doug Reitz on bird monitoring duty, June 2022, at Captain Daniel Wright Woods. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

This simple act of monitoring the presence of breeding birds at specified sites across the Chicago region is how the Bird Conservation Network has, over the course of more than 20 years, methodically amassed a data set that would be the envy of any research institution.

Rush Street has proposed a Rivers Casino as part of the under-construction 78 development on vacant land between the South Loop and Chinatown along the Chicago River. (Provided)

If a casino is coming to the riverfront, publicly accessible open green space should be a priority, as well as considerations for wildlife habitat, environmental advocates say. And the buildings themselves should be held to the highest standards of sustainability and climate resiliency.

Hundreds of millions of birds are migrating through the U.S. Sept. 3-6. (hollandevens / Pixabay)

Chicago’s bright lights lure birds from their migratory path. With hundreds of thousands of birds passing overhead this weekend, the city needs to dim its glow.