Murder Most Fowl

“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.

Bird-safe building standards deployed in new architecture by NBBJ

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.

Parts of Helix and other Amazon HQ2 towers that emphasize features for bird safety by NBBJ

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.




This episode features design critic Alexandra Lange and Kaitlyn Parkins, the interim director of conservation and science at New York City Audubon. Alexandra’s original reporting on bird collisions can be found here: Buildings Don’t Have To Be Bird-Killers. Production by Chris Berube and Kayko Donald. Coda on starlings and barn owls with Kurt Kohlstedt.

  1. As the podcasters clearly stated, the big problem is NOT the several thousands of skyscrapers in the world, the real problem is smaller structures such as apartment buildings or the literally MILLIONS of individual homes.

    Luckily, there ARE simple solutions for retrofitting windows in a home that are prone to bird strikes.

    I found one very helpful. It has myriad examples of how to birdproof windows. And the website shows detailed ways you can DIY.

    I have installed DIY “BirdSavers” on 3 of my windows.

    CHECK IT OUT. I am not affiliated in any way with the website below.

  2. I used Feather Friendly tape on several windows, front and back, including on the non-screen portion (i keep the screen open except on summer nights) of my patio door. On the windows – namely the second storey back windows – I installed a DIY Acopian Bird Saver 4”-spaced string curtain that I made out of self-adhesive cord conduits and nylon string – the only tool needed was a drill for the holes in the conduit (and a small screwdriver or even a pencil to poke them through). Even apartment dwellers can do this simple DIY for the cause, because it’s affordable and it’s removable, if an unreasonable landlord objects. My big bay window out front which everyone can see (bedroom windows match) haven’t cause any public comments and what few times I notice the dots, I’m happy because I know they serve a good purpose.

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