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Windows: an unintended fatal hazard for birds

xWe at SBTH are frequently asked what to do about window kills. Following is an article written for us by Dr. Daniel Klem, Jr., who is the acknowledged expert in the subject.

Habitat destruction is our greatest assault on wildlife because when we markedly alter or eliminate a habitat we also eliminate the fundamental resources upon which life depends; life cannot endure without food, shelter, or water. Certainly windows kill far more birds than wind turbines, power lines, pesticides, and domestic cats. Yet, it is fair to claim that this horrific loss of birdlife from collisions with windows is largely ignored by most, most regrettably by those that can do the most to prevent it: members of our conservation community whose mission is to protect life, and the building industry whose mission it is to construct human structures, increasingly with modern designs that are lavishly covered with glass.

Why is the glass threat to birds largely ignored? After studying bird-glass collisions for over 34 years, my view is that the attractive and utilitarian value of windows for humans is so great – economically, psychologically, and aesthetically – that we cannot imagine such a valuable product doing harm, or even considering altering these useful product in any way that would inhibit the meaningful benefits they offer. I have never advocated eliminating windows in any human structures, but I have recommended covering or altering panes by those willing make a small change in the way they see through their windows in order to protect birds. And ideally I have tried to investigate how new types of glass can be manufactured such that we humans see through windows the way we do now, but birds viewing the same windows from the outside see patterns in the panes that alert them to danger.

Covering windows with conventional insect screening is an effective lifesaver because it keeps a flying bird from striking the unyielding surface. You can also apply decals or window tape that birds can see, like those at http://www.duncraft.com/Window-Strike-Solutions or http://abcbirdtape.org/ Please note: Translucent decals (including raptor decals) or tape must be placed no more than 3" apart to be effective. Raptor decals do not frighten birds away.

Source of more detail: Windows: an unintended fatal hazard for birds. In Connecticut State of the Birds 2007. Connecticut Audubon Society, Fairfield, CT, pp. 7-12 (available at www.ctaudubon.org).

Daniel Klem, Jr., Acopian Center for Ornithology, Department of Biology, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA 18104-5586; email: klem@muhlenberg.edu

To read more of Dr. Klem's research, view this article.

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