Two off-course flights into downtown buildings this week resulted in the deaths of almost 30 Bohemian waxwings and the injury of several others.Wildwoods, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Duluth, is caring for three Bohemian waxwings that were injured downtown in the past two days, said Peggy Farr, a Wildwoods rehabilitator and board member. Five other Bohemian waxwings died in that incident, Farr said.

"We're on a major migration route," said Farr. "This is a good time of year to close the blinds so the birds don't get faked out by the windows."

Separately, about 25 Bohemian waxwings were found dead Monday, April 22, in the plaza area adjacent to the Minnesota Power building in downtown Duluth, said Amy Rutledge, manager of corporate communications for Minnesota Power. The birds apparently had flown into tinted glass partitions adjacent to the building as the birds were flying up to trees.

Rutledge said Minnesota Power plans to put stickers on the glass panels that the waxwings hit so birds will be more likely to see the panels.

"Something like this has never happened before," Rutledge said. "It seems to be an anomaly."

Bohemian waxwings, just smaller than robins, often move and feed in large flocks. In this area, they frequently feed on berries of mountain ash or crabapple trees, and these birds were observed eating mountain ash berries.

"In talking to the employee who saw this, they did see the birds eating berries that may have been fermented,"Rutledge said. "They may have become disoriented."

Duluth birder and birding guide Erik Bruhnke said that sometimes happens.

"I know that waxwings become intoxicated because of alcohol when the berries are fermented," Bruhnke said. "They can have varied levels of alcohol in their bodies. I've seen them flying together in close-knit groups with no problem at all.

"But I have seen, a couple times, where the whole flock will sit on the ground in a slight daze after eating large amounts of fermented berries and fruits."

But the more common problem is birds hitting windows, said Duluth birder Laura Erickson, birding author and host of the For the Birds radio program.

"It's a problem everywhere where fruit trees are close to windows, or close to highways and roads," she said.

The American Bird Conservancy sells tape that reflects ultraviolet light, which is visible to birds while minimizing the visibility to humans, Erickson said.

Fifty percent of birds that hit windows die, Erickson said.

Birds often strike the windows of homes in Duluth when the birds are coming to or leaving bird feeders, Erickson said.

"The safest place to have a birdfeeder is right smack on your window," she said, "either nailed to the frame or sticking to the glass. That way, they see the window. If they do hit the glass, they aren't going full speed."

"This is a wake-up call," Farr said, "to look for opportunities to make our city even better for wildlife than it is."

The Duluth Audubon Society is initiating a project called Birdsafe, an effort to reduce the number of birds killed or injured when they collide with buildings, said Jane Cleave, president of Duluth Audubon Society.

Tim Pohl, a contract employee who works at Minnesota Power in facilities management, witnessed the Bohemian waxwing die-off Monday.

Pohl had gone outside to put money in a parking meter on the Michigan Street side of the building when he saw a large number of Bohemian waxwings flying up toward a tree.

He saw many of the birds hit tinted glass partitionsand the building itself.

"There were hundreds of them flying," he said. "They were bouncing off the glass and the retaining wall underneath. I'll bet of the 100 I picked up, 37 of them died. It all happened within five minutes. It was like a horror movie. There were birds falling out of the sky not even near the wall. They were just dropping out of the sky not even hitting the wall.

"They would hit (the partitions or building) or drop out of the sky," he said. "Their wings were straight out, twitching. They were on their backs. I would hold them for a second, then put them on the ground. ... There was a liquid discharge. They left wet spots. Within seconds, they would fly away. But a bunch got worse."

Three crows nearby were preying on the injured waxwings, Pohl said.

"Crows were picking off the live ones," he said.

"I've never seen this before," Pohl said of the event. "I've worked here 12 years."

He said he stayed outside for about a half-hour, picking up birds and putting the dead ones in a pile.

"The crows picked up quite a few of them," he said.