Art Aims to Protect Birds from Glass

College students design films to prevent birds from crashing into windows.

Ninety-six pieces of 13-by-19-inch transparent film lined windows at Philadelphia’s Temple University this past spring, each donning an artful illustration designed to make the glass more visible to birds. One piece of film featured origami cranes; another showed birds perched on a musical staff, arranged to signify notes in a composition called “The Cardinal.” In crafting their work, the creators—students at Temple’s Tyler School of Art—followed strict guidelines on how to prevent bird strikes with windows. “From the sublime to the whimsical, it was all very inventive,” says Alice Drueding, Tyler’s graphic and interactive design head. 

One hundred million to a billion birds die annually from crashing into glass, according to the American Bird Conservancy, and more than 1,000 die each year on Temple’s campus. “What we want to do is use this as an opportunity to make people aware that this is a potential solution,” says Audubon Pennsylvania’s outreach coordinator in Philadelphia, Keith Russell, who dreamed up the exhibit and helped judge the best design. Surface Care, a New York–based company, is interested in printing and testing some of the films at Temple, where Russell will monitor their effectiveness. “We want to get the data so that we can say yes, they’re not only pretty,” Russell says, “but they work.”

This piece originally ran in the May-June 2012 issue as "Artful Dodging."