Up to a billion birds — including pretty Golden-winged Warbler (above) and dozens of other species — die in the United States every year after colliding with buildings. According to New York City Audubon, as many as 90,000 are killed in New York City alone. No doubt, building collisions are a reason why more than 200 species are declining.
So hopes are high that a test facility nearing completion on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo will help deliver an increasingly sought-after component of home and business construction — glass windows and doors that are more bird- and user-friendly.
A joint venture of American Bird Conservancy, New York City Audubon, New Jersey Audubon, and Ennead Architects LLP, the facility will evaluate products through highly refined testing protocols and provide scientifically sound feedback to manufacturers.
The facility will be the second in the United States. Experience gained at the first, a flight tunnel at the Powdermill Avian Research Center in Pennsylvania described in “Eye on Conservation” in February 2013, led to improvements in the New York tunnel. The new facility, for example, will use a standard daylight simulator to control for such variables as changing weather and light intensity.
Birds will be observed as they fly down a dark tunnel toward two glass panels mounted side by side. One, the control, is plain; the other is the test panel. A mist-net will prevent the birds from striking the glass. Each test will be videotaped, and the destination of each flight (to the control or test side, or to the side, floor, or ceiling of the tunnel) will be recorded. The more birds fly toward the control, the better the score for the tested material.
The timing of the new facility could not be better. Demand for bird-friendly construction materials has increased as interest in progressive building codes has grown. As a result, the world’s glass and window makers are lining up to test new collision-avoidance technologies. San Francisco, Oakland, Minnesota, and Toronto have already implemented bird-friendly building codes.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2014 issue of BirdWatching magazine. Subscribe.
This story was provided by American Bird Conservancy, a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas.