1,000 Birds Dead in One Night After Colliding with a Single Chicago Building

American Bird Conservancy Calls for Action to Prevent Record Number of Bird Deaths

A major bird-collision event occurred in Chicago, Illinois, last week, killing nearly 1,000 migrating birds, the highest number on record. During the night and morning of October 4-5, the birds died after colliding into the McCormick Place Lakeside Center during the height of their annual fall migration

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is calling for the management of McCormick Place to act now to prevent future bird collision tragedies, and for the Chicago City Council to fully implement the city's bird-friendly buildings ordinance. 

Six of the 1,000 birds found dead at McCormick Place. Left to right: Palm Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, and Common Yellowthroat. Photo by Daryl Coldren.

Weather patterns played a role, but even before this unfortunate event, the building's reflective glass walls and bright lighting were known to be a problem. ABC partners at the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors and Willowbrook Wildlife Center were out in full force, rescuing as many live birds as possible. 

Conservationists have long voiced concerns over McCormick Place as a danger to birds due to its position along Lake Michigan's lakefront where a lot of birds travel. Though not a tall structure, the building is made mostly of glass that has not been treated with products recommended by ABC to prevent bird collisions. Solutions are available, but building management and the city of Chicago have yet to act.

In 2020, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance requiring all new buildings to be designed with bird-safe features. It remains to be implemented as the city completes a larger sustainability plan for new development. 

This is one of the busiest times of year for Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-throated Sparrows and dozens of other migratory bird species passing through Chicago on their way south for the winter. Collisions with glass result in a staggering loss of up to 1 billion birds each year in the United States. It's a conservation crisis that ABC is tackling head on.

American Bird Conservancy ran a PSA in the Chicago Tribune print newspaper on October 10th, 2023 to draw attention to the tragic bird event that occurred and the overall threat of collisions.
American Bird Conservancy ran a Public Service Announcement in the Chicago Tribune print edition on October 11, 2023 to draw attention to the tragic bird event that occurred and the overall threat of collisions. See full image (PDF).

Most people may assume birds can cope and fly away right after a collision. However, birds often end up sustaining unseen serious injuries such as bruising, eye ulcers, and fractures that prevent them from continuing their journeys. The good news is, people can help. Given the loss of nearly 3 billion birds in the U.S. and Canada since 1970, ABC is encouraging the following solutions to help birds survive and thrive:

  • Tell your legislators to support the Federal Bird Safe Buildings Act. Take action now. 
  • Learn what other simple actions you can take to prevent bird collisions both at home and in your community.

We extend our sincerest thanks to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center, Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, and other groups and individuals who have been rescuing and providing vital care for the hundreds of injured birds that survived the McCormick Place mass-collision event.


American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and X/Twitter (@ABCbirds).

Media Contact

Jordan Rutter
Director of Communications