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Winged visitors flock to Wayne State
When walking around campus, how often do you stop and see the birds?
Each year, WSU is home or rest stop for approximately 50 to 60 species of birds, ranging from predatory Cooper’s Hawks to Michigan’s smallest bird, kinglets. While most are just passing through on the way north or south, a few stick around to hatch their offspring or make it their year-round home.
Why Wayne State? Because WSU and the city of Detroit are situated in the Great Lakes Flyway, a unique location that attracts a wide array of different bird species.
“When birds are heading north over Lake Erie, Detroit is the first thing they see,” says Karen Tonso, an avid birder and associate professor of theoretical and behavioral foundations in the College of Education.
Bird migration patterns typically trend along coastlines and major roadways, and Detroit has both. Flocks can be seen flying over Woodward Avenue and along the Detroit River. Because Wayne State has a lot of trees and other foliage, it is also a great bird rest stop or nesting area.
Tonso said this is the fourth year a pair of Cooper’s Hawks have nested near Fountain Court and successfully hatched offspring.
Aside from geographical location and habitat, WSU has a great food supply. Between Cooper’s Hawks and kestrels — the smallest member of the falcon family — Wayne State’s pigeon and rat populations are kept at bay.
So, the next time you walk around campus, look a little closer. The leaves you think you see rolling across the grass might be grasshopper sparrows. And if you look up, you might see a fledgling bird of prey poking its head over the side of the nest.