Bird-Safe Buildings Act: Who Will Show Their Support?

The U.S. Census Complex in Suitland, Maryland, is a state-of-the-art workplace that won the General Services Adminstration's Design Excellence Award and has achieved a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver rating. (Caption and photo from the U.S. Census Bureau.) Wavy planks cover some of the windows, creating a pattern that will probably deter almost all bird collisions into that glass, according to Christine Sheppherd, Bird Collisions Campaign Manager at the ABC.

In prelude to Migratory Bird Day last Saturday, Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL) showed some bird-support: On April 15, 2011, he introduced the Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act of 2011, requiring that avian-friendly design features be applied to various public buildings. To justify the legislation, Congressman Quigley’s bill highlights various irreplaceable roles that birds play in Americans’ lives, from economy boosters—birdwatchers contribute $36 billion annually—to natural pest control.

“Bird death from collisions with man-made structures is one of the most serious sources of avian mortality,” states the bill, and the trend is rising (see last week’s post to learn how glass is a major building-material culprit). Specifically, passing the Act would require that public buildings constructed, altered, or acquired by the Administrator of General Services must incorporate, to the maximum extent possible, bird-safe building materials and design elements. Where feasible, existing buildings would also have to work in bird-safe features, as well as address how their lighting—inside and out—affects native avian species.
Congressman Quigley's bill advises buildings to draw on several detailed documents for design inspiration: the American Bird Conservancy and New York City Audubon’s “Bird-Safe Building Guidelines”; the city of Toronto’s “Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines”; and the City of Chicago’s “Bird-Safe Building Design Guide for New Construction and Renovation” (you can download the document from the Internet). The last is hardly surprising—as commissioner of Illinois’s Cook County 2008, Congressman Quigley passed similar legislation to help protect the more than 300 species of birds that course along the Mississippi flyway, according to a Cook County press release. (For more on bird-friendly design features, click here.)

So what kind of chance does the Act stand as passing? “Unfortunately, one of the things that’s a barrier currently is that this bill has been referred to the Transportation Infrastructure Committee,” says Ann Law, Deputy Director of Conservation Advocacy for the American Bird Conservancy, and an item that they’re currently dealing with is funding for the transportation reauthorization bill, which has expired.* In other words, the committee's focus is likely more riveted on that issue than Congressman Quigley’s legislation. The good news is that you can do your part to encourage progress: “Contact [your] representatives and ask them to sign onto the bill (HR 1643) as a co-sponsor,” advises Law. You can also show your support by using the American Bird Conservancy’s form here.

*Facts in this sentence were ammended at 5:14 p.m.

“The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. Audubon does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.”