Birds hitting windows

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By Kaleigh Ahern

When you search the term “bird strike” on Google and click on the Wikipedia definition for it, you will read that it is “a collision between an airborne animal and a man-made vehicle, especially aircraft.”

The subsequent top Google results all include websites, organizations and articles regarding the prevalence of birds colliding with airplanes. While this is indeed an important issue that needs to be addressed, there is an entirely different type of bird strike that Google fails to acknowledge: bird collisions with windows. An estimated one billion birds are killed every year by windows. Can you believe it?

Why does Google fail to bring up this major issue as one of its first results? As with many concerns in today’s world, media attention is the secret to awareness and bird-window collisions hasn’t exactly made the hot list.

Why? Birds killing themselves at windows is not nearly as sexy a story as that of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, where pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and crew successfully ditched into the Hudson, saving the lives of 155 people after their plane collided with migrating Canadian geese. No humans are harmed when birds collide with windows, and that is one major reason why it does not receive the attention it deserves.

According to Professor of Ornithology and Conservation Biology at Muhlenberg College Dr. Daniel Klem, birds act as though clear and reflective sheet glass isn’t there. Perhaps you have witnessed this phenomenon in person. There is also mounting evidence to support that, aside from habitat destruction, collisions with windows result in more avian deaths than any other human-related activity. As an environmental science major, I have decided to investigate the prevalence of this problem on our campus as part of my thesis, which is based on urban environments and mammal populations.

I will also be comparing the newly LEED Gold certified Peter Irving Wold Center with other older buildings on campus. This is because the Wold Center is not only the first building on campus to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, it is also the only building that has fritted glass installed, which is glass laced with tiny dots that birds have been shown to be able to see and avoid.

With the guidance of Professor Kathleen LoGiudice as my thesis advisor, it’s time to get the investigation rolling! For the rest of spring term, you may see me or practicum students Paulina Piotrowski ‘14 and Yaqi Gao ‘15, wandering the campus with a clip board and binoculars. While it may look like we are creeping on you while you study on the first floor of the library or work out at the gym, we are actually looking for grease marks on the windows (evidence of a strike) and/or dead and injured birds.

Perhaps you have seen a bird run into a window on campus, or you just walked by a dead bird the other day next to the library and thought “that’s a bummer.” That’s why I am asking you for your help. While Paulina, Yaqi and I can’t be everywhere at once to record a strike or find a dead or injured bird, the entire student body can be! If you don’t want to do it for us, do it for the birds!

If you witness a bird-strike or come across an injured or dead bird, please email me at [email protected]

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