Each year an incredible 10 percent of birds, or 1 billion birds, die in North America from flying into building windows. Windows that mirror the image of the surrounding landscape entice birds to continue on their flight path until they strike the glass, according to Brad Zercher, wetland field biologist at the Prairie Research Institute’s Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS).
Research has shown that most birds that hit a window will die from their injuries. Some will die almost instantly, while others seem to recover from the strike only to expire later.
After years of collecting dead birds at the Forbes Building located in Research Park, some of the INHS staff decided to find a solution to modify the large windows that were causing so many avian deaths. Several options were available that disrupt, hide, and reduce external window reflections, including patterned glass, screens, shades, window films, and coated glass (Ornilux glass uses a UV coating visible to birds).
After consulting with the University of Illinois’ Architectural Review Committee (ARC), staff chose an Acopian Bird Saver for the south windows and a lined window film for the north windows where most of the bird casualties occurred. The Acopian Bird Saver is a simple window treatment constructed from strips of parachute cord. Both options provide a visible image so that birds can adjust their flight path away from the windows.
With the help of ARC and the Facilities and Services Department, both window treatments were recently installed just in time for the spring migration.
“We are excited and anxious to see the results,” Zercher said. “Hopefully we won’t find any dead birds this year and our efforts will feel validated.
Now that staff have addressed their own building, they plan to create more awareness of bird strikes across campus.
Many college campuses have already incorporated modified glass in some of their newer buildings. Cornell, University of California-Santa Barbara, Vassar, Smith, and Augustana College, to name a few, have all incorporated sustainable architecture to minimize bird strikes. As for existing buildings, window treatments can still be installed to deflect birds.
Zercher encourages others who are concerned about bird strikes on campus to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.