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Christa Lawler, Forum Communications, Published September 09 2012

Ghostly bird image on downtown Duluth window inspires flights of fancy

DULUTH, Minn. - The detailed mark of an unknown bird’s mid-flight collision with the skywalk is a little hard to see from certain angles.

It looks like someone dipped a pigeon in flour and then pressed it carefully against the glass of the skywalk over Michigan Street behind the Wells Fargo building. Those who stopped to study the impression Friday had a mix of responses.

Alan Svoboda, a designer, had an artistic take and said it was “kind of great.” He took a photograph of the image. Svoboda liked the idea of creating similar vinyl decals on skywalk windows.

“Let’s keep it weird,” he said.

Such silhouettes can be made from powder down, a substance that protects growing feathers, said birding expert Laura Erickson. Or it could be from a coating of dust on the window, she said, or a combination of both.

Erickson said the collisions happen more often during times of migration. Birds have to pass through downtown Duluth to clear Lake Superior. It happens during foggy nights and early in the morning.

“They get confused by lights in windows or reflections in the glass,” she said.

Mary Dontje, who regularly passes the spot, said the bird smudge has been on the window at least a week. A similar full-spanned mark of another bird was on the adjacent window.

“It makes you sad,” she said. “They were probably going full steam. You wonder if they died or recovered.”

Russ Holm said he saw a very detailed bird outline on the bridge that crosses Interstate 35 about five years ago. The individual wing details were visible on that one. This one wasn’t as impressive, he said.

“I’ve seen better,” Holm said.

Larry Kraft of Fargo says he found a similar outline of a bird on a second-floor window of his Rose Creek Parkway home.