Press Room

Building Collisions Kill Hundreds of Millions of Birds per Year

Audubon expert available for interviews about reducing bird deaths in urban areas like Super Bowl LII host city Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS – As media coverage increasingly focuses on the Super Bowl at US Bank stadium, Audubon is offering resources to increase awareness for the prevention of bird-window collisions.

Bird-window collisions are an unfortunate side-effect of urban environments and are a proven problem in Minnesota and throughout the world. Every year, hundreds of millions of birds in the U.S. die as a result. Migratory birds such as hummingbirds, thrushes, warblers and native sparrows migrate to or through Minnesota in large numbers and are known to be especially vulnerable to collisions.  

Available for Interview:

John Rowden, Director of Community Conservation, National Audubon Society

Rowden oversees implementation of Audubon’s conservation priorities in communities nationwide. He has also worked for Wildlife Conservation Society and the New Zealand Kiwi Foundation and has a Ph.D. in zoology from Duke University.

Audubon encourages every community to take actions that benefit both birds and people. This includes advising architects and building owners on best practices for reducing bird-window collisions.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What are the main reasons birds hit buildings?
Birds have two basic problems with buildings: One relates to lighting, the other to glass. Lighting is an attractant – especially for migrating birds who often fly at night. Brightly lit buildings can draw birds in where they can hit windows or other obstacles. Glass is a problem because it is confusing for birds as an invisible obstacle and as a reflective surface. Birds use the habitat and airspace around buildings as they forage and migrate. They fly into glass that reflects the habitat or the sky or try to fly through glass when they can see habitat or sky on the other side. As a rule, collisions occur just about anywhere birds and glass coexist and collisions increase 19 percent for every 10 percent increase in glass area.

What kinds of buildings are most dangerous for birds?
Buildings that have both extensive glass and attractive habitat are the most dangerous for birds. Other features such as skyways or passageways, mirroring and bright lighting can cause additional problems. However, we find birds at a huge variety of buildings from beautifully landscaped glassy corporate complexes to unlit buildings in the heart of downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. As more architects and designers become aware of this problem and take action to prevent it, new and innovative solutions will become available.

What can be done?
There are many aspects of a building’s design and layout that can contribute to bird collisions. Designers and architects who are aware of these factors can use creative techniques and materials to reduce or eliminate collisions. These choices are best incorporated into the original design of a building. Retrofitting a building that proves to be a problem is more difficult with fewer options and choices that may not be consistent with the overall vision for the building.

What are the key components of bird-safe design?
From a design perspective, aspects of a building’s layout, landscaping, lighting design and exterior envelope may all contribute to its direct impact on birds through collisions. Key design choices include lighting design and operations and the use and extent of exterior glass.

Is bird-safe design part of LEED®?
The LEED system is the US Green Building Council’s nationally accepted standard of sustainability for the commercial, residential and institutional building industries. Provisions related to bird safety are included in the newest version of LEED v3 (2009). Currently points are awarded for bird-safety as part of the Innovation and Design (ID) category. However, since pertinent solutions fall in many traditional design categories, LEED points may fulfill bird-safety needs at the same time as they fill needs for sustainability and efficiency in other categories.

Is bird-safe design required by law?
While all native birds are protected by law there are still many sources of mortality such as window collisions that are simply overlooked. This issue is getting more regional and international attention and specific design criteria are required in a few communities. The City of Toronto has new requirements for bird-safe design. Cook County, IL has also passed a bird-safety ordinance. Here in Minnesota, we have a state law requiring all state-owned and leased buildings to adhere to “Lights Out” parameters to benefit migrating birds and save energy. And Federal legislation has been proposed requiring bird-safe design for federal buildings.

Is bird-safe design part of ‘building green’?
Interestingly, as we expand our use of “green” design, the use of glass has increased. Green design often also includes landscape enhancements around buildings including water features and the addition of native plantings. The combined effect of glass and attractive habitat can make green buildings even more deadly to birds as they are drawn in close to the glass and cannot see it as an obstacle in their path. Building green has typically focused on energy efficiency, sustainable materials and resource conservation. Advocating bird-safety in buildings should also be integral to the green building movement.

To learn more about Bird-Friendly Communities, please visit https://www.audubon.org/conservation/bird-friendly-communities. 

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.

Contact: Nicolas Gonzalez, Media Relations Manager, ngonzalez@audubon.org, 212.979.3068.

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