Students Work to Lessen Impact of Birds Striking Building Windows

By ANDREW BOCKSTAEL

KINGSTON, R.I. — Did you know that in the United States it’s estimated that between 97 million and 975 million birds are killed as a result of building-window collisions? These estimates might be on the low side.

Bird-strike mortality is regarded as the second-most cause of bird mortality, the first cause being feral cats.

In a small, campus-like setting, with only four buildings between four and six stories high, as many as 116 birds of 40 species were killed by striking buildings over a one-year period, for an average of 29 kills per building per year.

The highest window-strike mortality was found to occur during the autumn and spring, the peak migration periods. Most birds killed are migrant species. Songbirds appear to be more prone than other species.

Here, at the University of Rhode Island, birds like the cedar waxwing and warbler, are notable species that are affected by building strikes. Window strikes can occur on targets such as the Chafee building, that are big; but wind-tunnel effects and buildings structured with a corner between two buildings can funnel birds into a building.

Studies indicate that building windows tend to reflect open sky or distant wooded areas, creating the illusion of open flight paths. It may be possible to reduce bird-to-window collisions by the use of window applications that provide the birds with a visual clue that the window is a solid obstruction.

What can we do? Interested students are planning to develop baseline data on the frequency of bird strikes on campus. We hope to identify the individual buildings that may have the greatest negative impact, and then propose a practical way to ward off the birds.

Through our involvement, we’re promoting a discussion among students with conversations, ideas and observations. Hopefully, we can achieve a goal of reducing bird deaths due to windows. Meet us at the URI Quad for an Earth Day presentation April 19 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Andrew Bockstael is a junior at the University of Rhode Island.