HELPING BIRDS: New York City Passes Bird Safe Glass Building Law

NYC Glass Buildings
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

Just this month, New York City passed a bill which mandates bird-safe windows on all new construction as well as during major building retrofits in the city.  This is incredibly important because up to one billion birds every year are killed by hitting glass windows. And having a bill like this in place in the largest city under the Atlantic Flyway both sets an example and opens the way for other cities to do the same.  Our thanks to New York City Audubon and the American Bird Conservancy for their dedicated work with NYC City Council to get this bill into law.

Why is this legislation important? It’s easy for birds to mistake the glass reflection of the trees which are behind them for trees ahead, which they can land in. So, often at full speed, birds fly into glass panes with the intention of just passing through, only to be either stunned or killed. New York City is directly under the Atlantic flyway, one of the busiest migratory pathways used by birds during migration. It’s estimated that up to a quarter of a million birds fly into windows in the Big Apple each year and are killed.


Most birds hit windows when they are flying below 75 feet, so the rules in this bill apply to the glass in lower portions of buildings, additionally to any areas where there is a green roof which would attract birds, and any glass enclosure such as glassed in walkways, which would create “the illusion of a void” which birds might think they can fly through. This is the latest measure that has been undertaken by NYC to make the city safer for avian resident and migrant birds.  It sets a goal and a standard for other cities which suffer similar death tolls from glass structures.


Want to help birds by getting this kind of legislation in your state or community? Check out this info from Audubon about how to lobby your state legislators. You can also talk to your City Council or Mayor to work on getting this kind of protective legislation in your city. Glass buildings are a contributor to the 3 billion birds which have been lost in the past few decades. This kind of legislation can make a huge impact on the birds flying through your city, so put this on your list of something you can do to help birds.