Goal: Reduce urban hazards to birds

While cities can provide important bird habitats, which give people places to deepen their connection with nature, human development and activity in urban areas pose many threats to birds.Hazards As a result, cities will never be totally safe environments for birds and other wildlife. These threats include direct bird mortality from free-roaming cats, building glass and lights, communication towers, hazardous trash, invasive plants and animals, and pesticides. The last two threats also contribute to indirect mortality through reduced habitat quality and prey populations. The degree of bird mortality caused by human-made structures in airspace habitat (e.g., building glass, lights, towers, wind turbines,and power lines) and by human-introduced objects and animals (e.g., contaminants, invasive plants, plastics, fish netting, and free-roaming cats) have had a devastating cumulative impact on bird populations, especially migratory birds. Migration exposes birds to these and many other dangers and is considered to be the most hazardous life stage, so ensuring safe migration airspace and ground habitat is critical to conserving migratory birds. For this reason, reducing urban hazards to birds is a primary goal of the UBT program.

Urban Bird Hazards to Focus On. Since there are many hazards to birds in the urban environment and partner capacity is limited, the UBT program encourages partners in cities to focus on the following five main urban birds hazards:

  • Building glass—responsible for an estimated annual bird death of up to one billion individuals in the U.S.
  • Lighted structures —contributes to the above estimate by drawing in, confusing, and exhausting birds.
  • Free-roaming cats—responsible for an estimated annual bird death of 2.4 billion birds in the U.S.
  • Pesticides–harm birds directly through poisoning and indirectly by reducing their food supply; one study estimated 2.7 million bird deaths in Canada alone.
  • Hazardous trash—such as plastics and fishing line can result in significant bird deaths as a result of ingestion and entanglement.
  • Invasive species—non-native, invasive plant species can adversely impact birds by outcompeting native species resulting in the loss of food and habitat provided by natives.


  • Address disturbance by invasive and detrimental species
  • Address bird collisions with glass
  • Address light pollution
  • Address the threat of disease, pollution, pesticides, and other environmental hazards

Activities: UBT partners in Nashville are working to identify and reduce urban hazards to birds in the various forms that they take. Invasive and detrimental plant species, collisions with glass, light pollution, and the threat of disease, pollution, and pesticides are all key hazards that partners in Nashville are working to address. Various projects are being assessed for feasibility to ensure the use of native plants on public lands, to pass a city ordinance that requires new buildings to follow bird-safe design, and to transition downtown buildings to be Dark Skies compliant.

Community members are also doing their part to make progress towards this goal. Partner organizations are engaging with Nashville residents in trash cleanup to remove pollution and hazards from bird habitats, an are providing community members with educational materials about pesticides and wildlife feeding practices. This empowers Nashvillians to enact change in their own neighborhoods and do their part to benefit the City’s natural areas for birds, other wildlife, and people. 

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