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Landmark Buildings are a Death Trap for Wild Birds

The skylines of the world’s great cities are now dominated by impressive glass facades. Architects just love using glass and these buildings certainly create more exciting skylines whilst improving the natural light for those who work in them.

However, contemporary architecture is problematic for birds as they are unable to distinguish the glass from open air space. It is estimated that 750 million birds perish in the US alone each from flying into buildings. The problem is so serious that some of the skyscrapers’ owners employ workers to remove corpses from around the foot of the buildings.

Reducing the Mortality Rate

In the US, an informal group has formed and is working towards reducing bird strikes. This includes members of the American Bird Conservancy, New York City Audubon, New Jersey Audubon, and the Bird Safe Glass Foundation. They have raised the awareness of the issue and progress is being made towards creating
bird safe facades.

Two testing tunnels have been established by the American Bird Conservancy. These enable scientists to look at which glass treatments and lighting conditions birds will avoid. They have already discovered that birds won’t attempt to fly through vertical line patterns that are less than 4 inches apart. It appears that line patterns are more effective than dotted patterns when it comes to preventing collisions.

New Developments in Glass and Lighting

The new understanding of bird behaviour has been used in consultations with glass manufacturers to evolve products which are more bird friendly. These include glazing with patterns and UV coatings which are visible to birds and alert them to the presence of a barrier.

The group has managed to persuade the US Green Building Council to introduce an incentive for incorporating bird collision deterrents into new buildings. There has also been legislation passed in some cities regarding bird safe building standards. In addition to new materials and glass treatments, lighting is also being addressed. Birds are attracted to and can be disorientated by artificial light. It helps when interior lighting is switched off after dark if it is not required by people in the building.

Architectural Improvements

The drive to increase bird safety is changing architecture. More and more buildings are featuring designs which are safer for birds. Examples of this include The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Centre which boasts fritted glass windows and the Tracey Aviary Visitor Center in Salt Lake City which is fronted by metal screens. Architects are far more aware of the issue and are thinking about birds when evolving their plans.

Advocates of bird safety continue to research the problems of glass facades and are seeking funding for their work. They would like to build further testing facilities and are campaigning for bird friendly legislation. They would love to see a time when bird safety is always a consideration in building design.

Most people are not aware of just how many birds are killed because they fly into buildings. The stunning architecture of the modern era is easy on the eye but not on the birds who fly across the world’s cities.


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