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Up to a billion birds die flying into windows

Hundreds of millions of birds die every year flying straight into windows. The locals – pigeons and seagulls – aren’t as vulnerable but migrating songbirds routinely slam into glass, lured by the reflections. Today, project By Design looks at how the creation of glass with hidden patterns is saving one songbird at a time.

It’s been estimated that as many as one billion birds are killed in North America each year flying into windows. Most are song birds. This is peak season for such deaths, the annual fall migration south.

Project By Design, is taking a look at some of the experiments and innovations underway to design bird friendlier glass and architecture. Skyscrapers can be killing grounds for birds, but the vast majority of deaths are from collisions with the windows of homes.

To better understand why, the University of Alberta in Edmonton, has begun a ‘Birds and Windows Project‘. More than 800 homeowners from across North America are signed up to document bird collisions at their homes and send the data to the University. One of those taking part is retired Edmonton teacher and bird lover, Robert Davidson.

While our homes may be bird death traps, cities are particularly lethal for migratory birds. With its location on the shores of Lake Ontario,Toronto sits smack in the middle of the annual migration routes.

Here are some photos of Michael Mesure with volunteers from FLAP in Toronto and Christine Sheppard at the Bronx Zoo with their efforts to save birds.

 

Christine Sheppard stands at the end of the bird tunnel. This experiment's goal is to identify which patterns of lines and dots in glass prevent birds from crashing, so safer windows can be designed for commercial development. (Jim Briggs)
Christine Sheppard stands at the end of the bird tunnel. This experiment’s goal is to identify which patterns of lines and dots in glass prevent birds from crashing, so safer windows can be designed for commercial development. (Jim Briggs)
Aniko Totha is with the American Bird Conservancy at the Bronx Zoo. She is involved in a bird tunnel experiment testing different glass designs to find which ones prevent birds from crashing into windows. (Jim Briggs)
Aniko Totha is with the American Bird Conservancy at the Bronx Zoo. She is involved in a bird tunnel experiment testing different glass designs to find which ones prevent birds from crashing into windows. (Jim Briggs)

 

This is what a bird sees in the 10-metre long experimental tunnel at the Bronx Zoo. (Jim Briggs)
This is what a bird sees in the 10-metre long experimental tunnel at the Bronx Zoo. (Jim Briggs)

 

Michael Mesure was so upset with the carnage of dead birds he witnessed in Toronto that he created an organization called FLAP, the Fatal Light Awareness Program. (JP Davidson)
Michael Mesure was so upset with the carnage of dead birds he witnessed in Toronto that he created an organization called FLAP, the Fatal Light Awareness Program. (JP Davidson)
 Toronto is considered one of the worst places for bird deaths in North America. The first 16 metres of a large building is where birds can see a reflection of a tree or park and eventually smash into the windows, usually dying on impact. (Kenneth Herdy/ FLAP)

Toronto is considered one of the worst places for bird deaths in North America. The first 16 metres of a large building is where birds can see a reflection of a tree or park and eventually smash into the windows, usually dying on impact. (Kenneth Herdy/ FLAP)

 

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