On 9/11 Anniversary, 'Thousands Of Small White Objects, Sparkling And Spiraling' : The Two-Way The Tribute in Light, memorializing lives lost on Sept. 11, may have disrupted bird migration.
NPR logo On 9/11 Anniversary, 'Thousands Of Small White Objects, Sparkling And Spiraling'

On 9/11 Anniversary, 'Thousands Of Small White Objects, Sparkling And Spiraling'

The "Tribute in Light" rises above the construction cranes on One World Trade Center, and the lower New York skyline, on Sept. 11, 2010.  Mark Lennihan/Associated Press hide caption

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Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

On a visit to New York City last weekend, I caught a glimpse of the "Tribute in Light," two bright beams that commemorate lives lost in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the felled Twin Towers.

Because of my vantage, I didn't notice the "thousands of small white objects, sparkling and spiraling, unlike anything seen on other nights," which WIRED's Brandon Keim saw.

"Those unidentified objects have now been identified as birds, pulled from their migratory path and bedazzled by the light in a perfect, poignant storm of avian disorientation," he writes.

According to The Wall Street Journal, New York Audobon "asked the Municipal Arts Society, which operates the Tribute in Light, to turn off the lights whenever the number of birds swirling in the beams became too great."

On five occasions, the lights were turned off for 20 minutes or so, to allow the birds to continue their migration.

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NPR's Melissa Block spoke with John Rowden, associate director for citizen science and outreach for the New York City Audubon. You can listen to their conversation here.