Barred Owl Collides with Apple Store in Downtown Portland

Name a bird you might see around Pioneer Place. A pigeon? House Sparrow? Crow? Absolutely. How about an owl? Not quite the image most people have in mind when they think of the wildlife they might spot next to the mall in one of the most heavily trafficked areas of downtown Portland. And yet, on a chilly November night, a Barred Owl flew silently, navigating through the streets and around buildings, carrying a meal: a partially eaten rat. When the raptor approached the glassy facade of the Apple Store, it met the fate of so many other birds. The adult owl hit the window, and fell approximately 20 feet to the ground.

The next morning, concerned staff at the Apple store gave the bird some privacy by surrounding it with chairs, and called the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for help. Susan Barnes from the ODFW arrived, approached the bird and saw that it was dazed and leaning to one side, unable to hold itself upright. She then put the stunned owl in a box and had a volunteer bring it to our Wildlife Care Center for treatment. Within a few days the owl was proving to be alert, with full range of motion, and no broken bones. And with a lot of fight. All good signs. However, window strike victims’ cases are difficult to predict. Many suffer internal damage from the impact which can be fatal. With time to heal, anti-inflammatories and other treatments, we are hopeful this bird will make a full recovery and be able to be released out into the wild.

Almost everyone has a window strike story. They heard a loud thud, and then either found a dazed bird or a fatally wounded bird right below their window. It’s one of the most common injuries we see at the Wildlife Care Center, especially during migration. And that’s true across the country. Experts estimate that up to a billion birds die from window collisions each year.

The Apple Store is illustrative of a trend that is dramatically increasing risks for birds. It was intentionally designed to be “invisible” with solid walls of uninterrupted glass. Birds are unable to recognize these structures as solid and high numbers of strikes are virtually assured.

That’s why it’s so important for homes and businesses to champion bird-safe building designs and solutions.

Apple Store in downtown Portland. Photo by Deciare

“The death toll from window strikes is staggering and it will only get worse if our cities do not adopt bird-safe build standards,” said Bird Alliance of Oregon Conservation Director, Bob Sallinger. “As the public becomes more aware of this hazard, many cities are adopting bird-safe building requirements and it is time for Portland to do the same.”

Currently, the Portland City Council is considering the Central City Plan which will guide development in the central city through 2035. The plan currently includes a requirement to use building designs which reduce hazards to birds.Please take a few minutes to email Portland City Council and let them know that you support bird-safe building requirements in the Central City Plan.

Click here to take action.

Every year the Wildlife Care Center treats 3,000 injured or orphaned native animals. If you would like to make a donation to support our wildlife rehabilitation work at the Wildlife Care Center, click here.