As Clear as Glass

April 20, 2011

I attended a great lecture at Lafayette College  entitled:  An Overview Of Bird Mortality At Windows: Cause and Prevention Challenges.  Dr. Daniel Klem, Jr., of Muhlenberg  College, was the speaker.  This was part of a series of lectures during Earth Week being held at Lafayette College.  Dr. Klem has devoted his professional career to studying bird mortality from windows and looking for answers to decrease incidents. 

Who hasn’t walked into a glass door, or a glass table top at one time or another?  Well it happens to birds at an alarming rate, except that they usually don’t survive the impact.  Is there anyone reading this that hasn’t had a bird fly into a window at their house or workplace?  Now consider this; you aren’t alone.  You are not an isolated statistic, but rather every house on your street, in your town, in your state experiences the same occurrence.  That is frightening math.   It doesn’t matter if the glass is clear or mirrored; birds still fly into windows and die. 

I was surprised to learn that windows strikes are likely the largest source of bird mortality.  That means that things like chemical poisoning, natural predators, vehicle collisions and hunting are all minor in comparison.  Mortality from windows is indiscriminate.  Healthy individuals are just as likely to die form a collision as a sick bird.  Because some species are prone to fly into certain glass situations, there is even concern for population declines of certain species, all due to glass.

Some things that Dr. Klem has found to work are very simple.  Falcon outlines and other cut-outs placed on windows do work.  Changing the lighting inside and/or outside windows can have an effect in certain situations.  Screens and window treatments, angling windows, lines inside the glass have all reduced collisions. Some solutions also reduce heating and cooling costs.

What is most disturbing, is that there is very little being done to try to reduce this huge loss of bird life.  Unfortunately, we are all to blame.  As homeowners, there are simple solutions for reducing bird collisions with our windows.  Architects could incorporate the types of glass into building designs that help to reduce bird collisions.  Some glass companies have worked on different designs to reduce bird mortality, but more research needs to be done.  State and Federal Wildlife Agencies have a mandate to protect wildlife, and could do more to reduce this problem.  Finally, more scientists and colleges need to study this problem so that they can help glass manufacturers find solutions.

Before you say that birds need to get smarter, recall that time you walked into the glass door.  We are the smart ones.  We are the ones that need to find the solution.