A bird’s life isn’t easy. With suburban sprawl and development, bird populations are
in trouble. According to the National Audubon Society, “the average population of
the common birds in steepest decline has fallen by 68 percent” since 1967. Cities
are attempting to address the problem by establishing design guidelines for buildings
to prevent bird deaths, but some are going beyond this by  instituting programs and
policies that actually attract birds.

The Los Angeles, California neighborhood at the intersection of Olympic Boulevard
and Hoover Street is doing just that through a local elementary school. Three years ago,
Leo Politi Elementary School decided to revitalize a corner of its campus by planting
native flora. The intention was to improve the corner aesthetically for its students and
residents, but the corner plantings did much more than that. The garden soon attracted
a variety of birds and insects. This revitalized corner has become a favorite spot of
students and has been associated with increased test scores and an increased ability of
students to identify species of birds and insects. This garden story shows that improving
bird habitats can often be easy and inexpensive.

Design firms are also considering the quality of wildlife habitats. A firm, Openfabric,in Rotterdam, Netherlands is creatively thinking about how they might be able toimprove biodiversity habitats in the city. The firm contends that cities are still taking a city versus nature approach instead of embracing and working with nature. Openfabric’s designs include transforming 19.5 miles of railway and 58.1 miles of tramlines into green corridors, which encourage wildlife ranging from insects and birds to come into the city. An article in Treehugger, refered to these areas a “hubs for birds.” By using the already extensive transportation network, these wildlife habitats connect and are distributed across the city to help support the 125 bird species located there. This design is still inthe planning stages and no implementation strategy has been identified yet.

Lastly, Wisconsin takes the scope beyond specific cites and has created a Bird City
classification program. Bird City communities are recognized for their dedication to
working with citizens to make their communities “a better place for people, birds,
and other wildlife.” This concept was adapted from the “Tree City USA” program.

The “bird city” program consists of twenty-two criteria for the conservation of
birds. In order to become a Bird City, communities must meet at least seven of
those criteria. This program is the product of collaboration between the Natural
Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Audobon Society, the Wisconsin Bird
Conservation Initiative, and the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology.

Carla Jones, Biophilic Cities Researcher

Carla is a recent graduate in Masters in Urban and Environmental Planning and Masters in Public Health at the University of Virginia.

Photo Credits: Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times; Bird City Wisconsin