Written by Kasper Cergol, with contributions from Anne Freudenthal.

The Seattle Bird Collision Monitors (SBCM), is a community science initiative that began with a pilot season in the fall of 2021. Continuing this spring, 27 volunteers dedicated a few hours each week to visit selected study buildings, looking for dead and injured birds that may have been victims of window strikes. Many of these buildings have large, glassy features that could increase the risk of bird-window collisions. The data collected by volunteers will be used to help inform bird-safe building guidelines and future conservation efforts.

After participating in the SBCM community science program, volunteers Kasper Cergol and Anne Freudenthal share their experience and how it has changed their outlook on the built environment.

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow / Darcy Barry

Volunteering with SBCM

I’d never volunteered with Seattle Audubon before, joining just as this season of collision monitoring was getting started. I wanted to spend my time making a positive impact in my community and the data gathered through SBCM can help us better understand how to protect birds in our local area.

While monetary donations are always fantastic, I enjoy participating firsthand toward a cause as well. Conservation work on this scale depends on valuable and committed volunteers.

“I’m an arborist and birds are an easy way to start a conversation about habitat and biodiversity in the city,” says Anne Freudenthal, a returning collision monitor. “I’d been wanting to find a way to volunteer that is low stress and low time commitment, but still feels like I’m contributing to something. This was perfect because we are gathering data that will be used to inform bird-safe design decisions in the future.”

Dust print left after a bird hit a window at Seattle University

Bird Collision Print / Josh Morris

Finding a Specimen…Or Not!

Most monitoring shifts did not find any dead or injured birds. However, finding nothing is just as important as finding something. Collecting data each day over the course of 6 weeks helps to gain a better understanding of where birds may be colliding with windows, and where they may not.

As a volunteer, Anne has found two specimen – one bird during the pilot season and one bird this spring. Both of the birds Anne’s shift discovered were in the same location, months apart. “The competitive side of me thought of it like getting an imaginary point for finding the birds, but really I was mostly just sad that I found two specimens at the same building.”

While I didn’t find any dead or injured birds on my shift, I have found dead birds in other locations on my own time. Making a report on dBird.org is a great way to contribute to research efforts outside of volunteering with SBCM, as Seattle Audubon also uses dBird data to understand and prevent window collisions.

Orange-crowned Warbler / Anne Freudenthal

Enjoying Community Science

During the monitoring season, I was wonderfully surprised by the dynamic ecosystem existing right beneath our feet. Witnessing the life cycles of the plants, bugs, and small animals unfolding in all these tucked away corners beside buildings proved to me that it is possible for cities and the natural world to exist together, as long as we take care to protect it.

“I like the scavenger hunt format,” Anne says, reflecting on her experiences over the past two seasons. “It made me feel more accountable for showing up and doing a good job every week.”

Other SBCM volunteers enjoy the weekly walk required for monitoring, with others commenting on the program providing them an opportunity to learn and teach about window collisions and bird-safe building design.

The Lens of Conservation

The community engagement aspect with this program helps to raise awareness on bird-related conservation issues. People cannot care about a problem that they don’t even realize exists.

Promoting conservation knowledge among the general public is an important part of encouraging people to take action to protect our local bird species. Being part of a research project like this one is such a valuable experience; learning how I can improve my own understanding of conservation while also educating my community has helped me grow to be a more aware individual.

Varied Thrush by Mick Thompson. Varied Thrush are common birds to find dead or injured around windows.

Varied Thrush | Mick Thompson

Looking Forward to Future Seasons

Part of why I love Seattle is the amount of people here who care about the environment. This was the first time I’ve volunteered with Seattle Audubon and the community is large and engaging.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the next season of collision monitoring, I say go for it! It is a great way to get involved if you have a busy schedule or haven’t volunteered before. The people I’ve met through the Seattle Bird Collision Monitors are friendly, welcoming, and ready to learn, so it’s also a great opportunity to connect with new people.

Kasper Cergol

Kasper Cergol

Seattle Audubon Volunteer

Kasper Cergol is a Towson University graduate and Seattle Audubon volunteer. In his free time, he enjoys sewing, making audio books, and spending time with his cat.

Anne Freudenthal

Anne Freudenthal

Seattle Audubon Volunteer

Anne Fruedenthal is an arborist for the Seattle Parks Natural Resources Unit tree crew. One of her main interests is preserving habitat in a way that is safe for the residents of the city, but allows wildlife to share space with us.

Collision Monitor Volunteer / Megan Elfman

Interested in Volunteering?

There are many opportunities to join Seattle Audubon as a volunteer!