The Importance of Bird-friendly Infrastructures

2021-05-11

 |  Biodiversity/Conservation

With the rise in the number of residents in urban areas, buildings are now becoming taller and taller to efficiently provide enough space for the growing population. However, solving one problem brings another. Due to mass urbanization, areas that are used to house natural habitats for wildlife are quickly being replaced with giant concrete infrastructures with large glass windows. Birds have fallen victim to this case, with the bird-building collision issue becoming a prevalent problem. In Canada alone, more than 25 million migratory birds are killed yearly directly from these bird-building collisions. That number will not stop growing unless we all work towards finding solutions to help lessen the problem of biodiversity loss throughout our cities.  

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How do bird-building collisions occur? 

A lot of the modern architecture seen all throughout our cities are starting to incorporate more glass surfaces. Although this brings more variety to our city skylines, it also means that innocent birds will unknowingly collide with these very surfaces and get injured and possibly even get killed. Why does this happen? Glass is not natural to our environment, meaning animals like birds are unable to process that there is a barrier. The reflections caused by the glass, along with natural environments and skies, further draw the birds into flying into the windows. Things do not get better at night, as birds migrate using natural sources of light like the moon and stars to guide them. In an age of light pollution, artificial light can astray the birds and attract them towards urban areas where they are at higher risk of building collisions.  

Does this mean we cannot enjoy diverse modern infrastructures? Luckily not, and this is where bird-friendly buildings come in. Buildings can be designed to prevent these collisions by treating the glass by applying a pattern across the whole window. Would this block the view from your window? Surprisingly and luckily, no! If the pattern is uniform, the human brain will ignore the pattern and look past it, and many have stated that they do not notice the pattern after a short amount of time after applying. Some other methods include exterior screens, solar shades, and shutters. Organizations like Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada are one of many that work towards this goal, with education programs and effective window treatments. The BirdSafe® DIY Building Risk Assessment, also called the FLAP app, is a user-friendly tool that identifies the bird collision risks of a building for both day and night. There are other resources available to assess either commercial or home buildings.  

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It should always start with prevention. On a larger scale, we can all prevent further bird-building collisions by utilizing less glass in future buildings, treating existing glass, reducing light pollution, and emphasizing using less glass near vegetation or vice versa, by placing less vegetation near glass surfaces. More information about Bird-friendly building design here:  Canadian Standards Association’s standards for bird-friendly design 

How can you help as an individual? 

First, a simple step you can take is to keep your lights off when possible, during the night. For the daytime, pull down the blinds when a room is not being in use. Try to also keep houseplants further away from the glass windows to prevent birds from mistaking the windows for vegetation. You can treat your own windows to make them bird-friendly, as mentioned earlier. To take a step further, check out more things you can do to act at https://birdsafe.ca/take-action/

Awareness is key, and education is how we get there. Visit sites like FLAP Canada, BirdSafe.ca or Frequently Asked Questions on Bird Collisions with Glass Windows – Canada.ca to learn more. If you find a bird affected by a collision, you can report to the Global Bird Collision Mapper.