Jim Mone/AP Images

No one can say they didn’t see this coming. Well, the birds can.

The Audubon Society warned that U.S. Bank Stadium, huge and glassy and inviting, would prove a “death trap” for birds who smacked into its massive walls. Now they’ve got the data to prove it. It is, by far, the deadliest building in Minneapolis.

Over a span of 11 weeks, volunteers from three conservation groups undertook regular circuits of the stadium, which officially opened last year. They discovered 60 dead birds, and 14 more “stunned” birds which had flown into the glass and were injured or distressed. City Pages has a good write-up, but if you want to dive into the details, the full report is available here—complete with lots of photos of dead birds, and mortality charts by species.

Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis
Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis

That’s 60 deaths in a single migration period, and doesn’t count the birds that were disposed of when volunteers weren’t there. (Interviews with maintenance staff and security guards indicate they regularly remove bird bodies.) Over a three-year period that projects to about 500 bird deaths. The previous recorded high for a single building in Minneapolis over three years was 250.

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“We knew that the glass would be highly confusing to the birds,” volunteer Jim Sharpsteen says. “They see a reflection of a blue sky in the glass, they think it’s a blue sky. They see reflections of trees, they think they can land in those reflections of trees. This confirmed what we already believed would be bad.”

There are relatively simple things the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority could do to severely reduce the mortality rates, including installing glass with a visible patten. That’s what they did at New York’s Javits Center, and immediately cut bird deaths by 90 percent.  

Conservation groups, including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, were calling for the stadium to be made bird-safe for years before it opened (in line with Minnesota Department of Commerce guidelines, which would appear to require it for all publicly financed structures like), but the MSFA declined to take any steps. There’s no indication they intend to do anything about it even now. Enjoy your bird mass grave, Vikings fans.

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[City Pages]