FROM ZOO TO YOU

By Kristi Newland

If you have been to the zoo when we introduce an animal to a new area where there is viewing via a glass window, you have possibly seen that window at least partially covered with paper. We do this because animals do not understand what glass is. Birds are included in that group of animals that do not perceive clear glass as a barrier.

At the zoo, over time, we slowly remove the paper as the animal becomes familiar with their new surroundings. Ever hear the ‘thunk’ of a bird hitting your office or home window? Sometimes the bird is just stunned, but that is not always the case. Every year millions of birds in the United States are killed by hitting glass.

Glass is not the only challenge birds face. There are also outdoor cats, climate change, collisions (vehicles, power lines, etc..), habitat loss, and more. One in four birds have disappeared in the past 50 years (3 billion birds), according to a 2019 study. If you have a window that seems to be a problem for birds, there are ways to change that. A visual barrier every 2 inches horizontally and every 4 inches vertically helps a bird perceive the glass as something they cannot fly through. Taking action during migration months or year-round could make a difference for our feathered friends.

Do you want to do a fun project with the kids? Grab some chalk markers or Tempera paint and create your own temporary scene on your window. There are more permanent solutions if that’s what you’re looking for. There are long-lasting bird-safe films you can apply to your window. They can be purchased in full sheets, cut out into custom designs, or in simple shapes, or display custom images. CollidEscape, Feather Friendly commercial, Solyx, ABC BirdTape, Acopian BirdSavers are a few you may want to check out if you’re interested.

If you happen to be building or changing out the glass in your windows, you can incorporate bird-safe glass. This is produced with an ultraviolet striping inside a three-panel glass or made with an acid etching to make the glass a barrier the birds can see. For such products, you’ll want to check into Ornilux, GuardianBird1st, Viracon bird-friendly glass, and Walker Glass Aviprotek.

Another thing to consider while you have birds on the brain are lights at night. Many birds, including the majority of songbirds, are flying around at night during their migration. Fewer predators are out and about at that time, and the winds are calmer, so the flying is easier. The downside is that bird collisions with buildings increase with greater amounts of artificial light at night. The birds may be drawn to or disoriented by the lights at night. Artificial light at night is also driving down insects which many birds feed on. The effects of artificial light may also be shifting the timing of bird migrations which could result in birds returning before their food sources are available.

What can you do to help? Close curtains or blinds so the light from inside buildings does not shine through the window. Reduce outdoor light usage or make sure the light is cast downward. These steps can help a great deal, especially during migration. We are getting closer to the end of the spring migration, but if you are interested in who might be flying overhead on a particular night, check out BirdCast.info. For more information on bird conservation, glass collisions, and more, check out American Bird Conservancy at abcbirds.org.

Kristi Newland is the director at Lee Richardson Zoo.