“The surprising uptake of birding as a pandemic hobby,” writes design critic Alexandra Lange, “has created new visibility for bird collisions with glass, which kill as many as 1 billion birds in the U.S. per year.” In a piece for Bloomberg’s CityLab, she traces the connection between open spaces, contemporary building design strategies, and bird deaths.
Open spaces in big cities, like urban parks, are great for migrating birds, but what surrounds them often isn’t. “A new generation of urban parks has given birds more places to roost in highly populated areas. But something else has followed these parks as well: real estate capital. The vogue for urban parks creates more economic impetus to build shiny buildings with big windows opposite those urban wetlands, glades and groves.” Bird collisions are common with these buildings because birds don’t perceive glass the same way people do, and will crash into all glass facades while on their migration route. These collisions are part of the reason North America has three billion fewer birds today than in the 1970s, according to a recent study.
When it comes to saving birds, a little bit of design can go a long way — adding small patterns to glass, for instance, can dramatically aid birds in avoiding deadly collisions. These changes are particularly important on the lower floors of buildings where most birds tend to crash, and around parks and other open spaces where birds love to land, and people love to watch them. In a lot of cases, big urban problems don’t have simple design solutions, but there are clear design fixes that can save millions of birds a year.