Monday, 28 March 2011

Birds In A Flap Over Clean Glass

What Can You Do To Prevent Fatal Bird Strikes? Be aware that birds collide with windows all year long. Spring and fall migration seasons, however, see dramatic increases in fatalities. Extra precautions taken during the migration periods may be very beneficial and well worth the effort. Basically, anything that cuts down on the reflective, see-through qualities of your windows may make your home or business more friendly to migrating birds. Scientists call attention grabbing designs on windows, “visual noise,” that cry out, “Watch out!”

Retro-fitting At Home and at the Office: Assess your situation. Many homeowners find that bird crashes occur at certain windows. Often windows that are installed on opposite sides of the house present to birds a clear passageway.  Focusing on the windows where birds run into problems may make the task of preventing strikes less daunting. Place bird feeders as close to windows as possible or far away from windows. A bird only needs a distance of 3 feet to gather enough speed to fatally crash into a window. Placing a feeder very close to a window limits the bird’s ability to attain crashing speed.

Decals can be effective if, and only if, they are placed very close together. Some, specifically marketed for this purpose, are quite attractive and give the appearance of etched glass. But they must uniformly cover the window surface at 2 inch intervals to work well. Posting post-it notes in bright colors, again placed closely together, on windows during the spring and fall migration seasons has also been found to be effective. The advantage here is that this solution is inexpensive and once the migrating season ends, they can be easily removed. Duct tape may be used to create patterns as well, but it may be more difficult to remove.

Dr. Christine Sheppard from the American Bird Conservancy has found another inexpensive technique for preparing home windows for migration. Non-toxic tempera paint, used to create patterns on the exterior of windows, is according to her “surprisingly doesn’t wash off with rain, but comes off easily with a damp cloth.” She encourages parents to get their children to help paint designs on windows within their reach. If you’re not up to free form painting, stencils are available at art stores.

Birds screens that can be purchased in various sizes and shapes or customized and attached to exterior windows and sliding doors are also effective as they are a more forgiving surface at impact than glass. Frank Haas in Pennsylvania owns the Bird Screen Company and sells to homeowners online or on the phone. The screen may be attached using screw hooks or with suction cups. The screens are no more than 36 inches wide and therefore do not have a commercial application. (

Some buildings have retrofitted using netting to cushion bird collisions. The Ornithology Department at Cornell University has netting on their glass windows. The same product that is manufactured to keep birds out of fruit crops can be used to protect them.

BirdMaster, a firm that provides elegant and unobtrusive netting for protecting historic buildings from infestations of bird pests, pigeons, starlings and sparrows are the experts that can also design netting systems to protect against bird strikes.

In the New York Metropolitan area, the New York City Audubon Society will provide consultation with office building managers to customize a specific approach to address the problem. Turn off unnecessary lights. Ask your municipality to adopt ordinances that would require shielded, downward pointing light for new construction. Share this information with others. Most people are shocked that the problem is such a big one and has garnered so little publicity.

How should I care for a stunned bird after it flies into a window? According to the Bird Conservation Network, more than 100 million North American birds die each year from window collisions. Even outside of spring mating season when birds are more likely to be confused/distracted, bird collisions are extremely common simply because birds do not recognize glass as a barrier. Ornithologist Daniel Klem of Muhlenberg College tells National Public Radio: "It's a very common phenomenon. Birds are deceived. They just don't see glass as a barrier and this is a problem for them."

So here's what you should do in the event that you hear that distinctive thump against a window and go outside to find a stunned bird. Observe the bird for a few minutes. Often, stunned birds with no physical injuries like broken wings can recover quickly from a window collision without any human assistance other than a watchful eye to make sure no potential predators (e.g. your cats) swoop in for a quick lunch.

If the bird remains inactive after five minutes or so, pick it up carefully - carefully being the operative word here - keeping it upright so it can breathe and not restraining it. You can don a pair of gloves if you see fit. Place the bird in a box with a lid (shoeboxes work fine) lined with paper towels or a soft cloth. Poke a few holes in the box large enough to allow for some ventilation. I'd keep a couple of dedicated traumatized bird "rehab boxes" at the ready.

Next, place the box in a warm, dark and secure (read: cat-free) area of your home where the bird will be able to "reboot" in peace and quiet. According to Wild Bird Watching, when a stunned bird is removed from all stimuli there's a greater chance it will heal from a potentially fatal concussion. Do not try to feed the bird, give it water or play the role of doting bird nurse. Just let it be.

After an hour or two, take the box outside, staying as far away as possible from your home or other structures. Open the box/bag and hopefully the bird will fly off, craning its neck to give you an appreciative, midair wink as it rejoins its buddies. You may need to pick the bird up once again to help it achieve takeoff.

This is the best-case scenario. If the bird is still in a vegetative state or seems worse off than when you first found it, close the box back up, take it back inside to a safe place and contact your local licensed bird or wildlife rehabilitation center for further instruction. Something to note: It's illegal to keep a wild bird in your care. A little post-trauma assistance is fine but if after a few hours in your care the bird is still struggling to snap out of it, it's time to seek outside help.

If the area around your home proves to be a bird magnet again this spring, I'd also take some preventive measures. Sure, it's great to know how to take care of a stunned bird, but you should probably collision-proof your home. The National Audubon Society offers an authoritative list of things you can do including strategic bird feeder placement, installing window decals and drawing your curtains or blinds.

More info here:
Bird-Friendly Building Certification
Aqua Tower Gets Proggy from PETA for Being Bird Friendly
Mirrored Tree House Built In Sweden (With Bird Film)

Bird-Friendly Glass Designed With Help From Spiders: There's such a thing as bird friendly glass, believe it or not. A German company called Arnold Glas makes Ornilux, and recently collected an international design award for its spider-web inspired product. Estimates are that more than 100 million birds die every year in the United States from collisions with windows. The number is about 250,000 a day in Europe, according to Arnold Glas. A special ultraviolet reflective coating makes the Ornilux glass visible to birds, but doesn't obstruct the view for us humans.

"The highly effective coating which, when looked at against a backlight, seems like a randomly unfolding layer of the game Mikado pick-up sticks, is barely visible to humans and integrates seamlessly into architecture ..."
The latest version of the glass, called Ornilux Mikado, received the "red dot" award this year from the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen in Essen, Germany. Judges noted that the glass uses the same techniques that spiders use to keep birds from flying through and destroying their webs. The glass was developed in conjuction with the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, which tested Ornilux on Central European garden birds and found they recognize it better than ordinary glass. The coating reduces bird strikes by an estimated 75 percent, is more effective than stickers and also helps insulate a building, Arnold Glas says. The glass is making its way to the states. The Detroit Audubon Society is one of the latest organizations to highlight the product.

The first installation of Ornilux was in the spring of 2006, during the modernization of the 100-year-old enclosed swimming pool in the German city of Plauen.

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