Annually, up to 1 billion birds die in North America by flying into windows and glass walls.  Guided partly by constellations, they are attracted to lights left on at night in our buildings.  Unable to understand reflections or recognize that glass is a barrier, they fatally crash into windows or glass buildings.

In the past few years, many cities such as Toronto, Chicago, and Portland have taken innovative steps in developing bird design standards for the construction and renovation of new buildings.  In addition, similar credits have been incorporated into the LEED® Rating System. These design guidelines place responsibility on the architect of a project to prevent bird fatalities through his design and material specification.   They also provide tips and tools for designing projects that are both architecturally innovative and bird friendly.  Some tips include the following:

Reflective skyscrapers are dangerous for birds because they cannot see the reflections as solid objects.
  • Break up a reflection through architectural details or distinctive pane dividers on the outside of a window, so that a bird will recognize that it is a solid surface
  • Reduce reflections with external window screens; fritted or patterned glass; window film, decals, or paint; blinds or drapes
  • Utilize awnings, greenery and green walls, and sunshades on the exteriors of a building
  • Implement night-time dimming of light fixtures; diffuse light; an focus lights towards the ground

For more tips on Bird-safe design guidelines or to see what other cities are doing, please visit these resources.

SF Standards for Bird Safe Buildings

Minnesota bird safe building guidelines

New York bird safe building guidelines

BirdSafe Portland

Chicago Bird-Safe Building Design Guide for New Construction and Renovation

Bird Friendly Development Guidelines Toronto

 Birds and Buildings: Creating a safer environment 

Post by Harriett Jameson, Biophilic Cities Researcher

Harriett is a candidate for a dual Masters in Landscape Architecture and Masters in Urban and Environmental Planning at UVa.

Photos from wikimediacommons.