Some estimate that nearly half a billion birds meet their untimely fate each year when they crash into the side of a towering skyscraper, or die from exhaustion after being mesmerized into flying endless circles by the building's lights. While removing the physical obstacles is out of the question, experts have found that dimming, or darkening, the lights works miracles when it comes to saving our feathered friends (in one study, it reduced bird deaths by 80 percent).
Detroit is located smack in the middle of a migratory bird flight path, and General Motors' Renaissance Center (a group of seven interconnected skyscrapers anchored with a 73-story hotel) poses a large obstacle to the flyers. To help the birds complete their travel unimpeded, General Motors has encouraged its employees to turn off their office lights at night during the spring and fall migrations – an effort that appears to be working. "We haven't seen the bird deaths," said Sue Kelsey, GM's biodiversity manager, yet she adds, "it's prudent and responsible for us to mitigate any potential concern."
In addition to participating in the Project Safe Passage program, GM manages about 2,500 acres of wildlife habitats at more than two dozen of its global sites. "General Motors has been an eager and committed partner of this initiative since its inception," says Fred Charbonneau, Detroit Audubon Society board member.