Safer Glass + Fewer Lights = Safer Migration

Safer Glass + Fewer Lights = Safer Migration

Migration is pretty challenging to begin with.  But there are some additional man-made risks that birds have to contend with and they are often deadly.

courtesy Sara Sharf/FLAP Canada

Colliding with glass poses a serious threat to birds.  It is estimated that nearly 300 million to 1 billion birds die each year from collisions with glass and confusion from lights on tall buildings, communication towers and homes — and the risk is increased during migration.  Research indicates that collisions are second only to habitat loss in the leading causes of bird deaths in North America.

During the evenings, it is thought that birds are attracted to the glow of excessive lights.  For centuries, birds have used patterns of light from the moon and stars to navigate the night sky.  Songbirds in particular prefer to migrate at night. Urban sprawl has only confused birds on their evening migrations.  They are drawn to the artificial lighting of cities and find themselves in a maze of brightly lit buildings where they often become trapped and fly in endless circles, unable to free themselves from the overwhelming light. These birds fall to the ground exhausted and often dead.

courtesy FLAP Canada

Many cities including San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Toronto, have a Lights Out program.  From midnight to dawn during peak migration in fall and spring, buildings turn their lights out, making passage safer for many migrating birds…and helping to save energy as well!  If your city doesn’t do this, you can try to get a Lights Out program established. It’s very important for migrating birds, and something anyone can do.

During the daylight hours, birds are attracted to reflections of their habitat and surroundings in glass. They see things differently than we do and may see the reflection of trees in a window for a resting spot and fly in.  Or they may not see there is glass they have to get through to get to a garden on the other side. Sound familiar?  Have you ever walked into a door not realizing it was glass?  At high speed, a bird hitting plate glass suffers greatly or even fatally with this kind of collision.

Glass is a serious concern for birds, but luckily products are becoming available to help birds from colliding with glass.  A new glass called Ornilux has a UV pattern that is nearly invisible to humans, but it allows birds to see the glass before they collide with it. Its a breakthrough in bird-friendly glass products and is great for new residential construction or commercial use.

But it’s not just the glass in city buildings that cause problems. Birds in your backyard are experiencing similar issues and need your help. If you spend time watching the birds in your yard, it is likely you have seen or heard them strike a window.  Placing your feeders within 3-4 feet of windows can in fact help reduce the likelihood of a window strike.  At a shorter distance, birds won’t build up enough speed to seriously injure themselves should they collide.  Closing blinds and moving houseplants away from Completed Window Examplewindows can also help lessen confusion. Placing strips of flapping fabric every 12-18 inches on the window shows there is no space to fly through, but it doesn’t look great. The most effective method is to put a repeating pattern on the windows that creates a view the birds know they can’t fly through. Single decals don’t really work as the birds think they can fly around them.  But Feather Friendly makes a dotted tape that you can apply yourself to make your windows safer for birds and it wont interrupt your view of them or your garden!

For more information regarding collision risks and how to prevent them, visit the Fatal Light Awareness Program website.  They have excellent tips on providing a bird friendly environment in your hometown and backyard.