Kids Current Events
Saving the Birds

Kids Current Events

Trying to save birds lives that are flying into windows has become the full time research effort of two scientists David Klem and Christine Sheppard. They would like to figure out how windows could be designed so the patterns in the window are invisible to people but birds could see them.

David Klem started trying to find ways to stop bird collision when he was a graduate student in 1974. He was resting outside a window when he saw a mourning dove fly into the window so hard some of its feather scattered and it died. Since that day almost 4 decades ago he has been researching ways to stop the birds from flying into windows.

Birds at feeder in Hawaii, Photo by Myrna Martin

Birds in Hawaii at a feeder
Photo by Myrna Martin

Klem estimates the number of birds killed by windows in the United States is estimated to be between 100 million and 1 billion birds each year. He bases the estimate on the average number of birds killed each year by the windows of a single building and multiplying by the number of building in the United States.

People have wondered why birds fly into windows for almost a century. A 1931 scientific report on the yellow-billed cuckoo crashes stated that the deceased birds are “rare, self-destroying incompetents.” After World War II the building boom created more and more building with picture windows and glass walls. The number of birds that died from crashing into windows surged. Klems slogan after 40 years of research is “it’s the glass, stupid.”

Christine Sheppard has worked at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo for over two decades. She found that when they had a new bird that did not know its way around an exhibit covered with glass she would soap the windows until the birds knew its way around the enclosure. After that the windows were washed off the bird flew safely around its enclosure.

Today Kelm and Sheppard are trying to find ways to protect the birds while not destroying the view of people in glass walled building or with large expanses of picture windows. Research into different types of window glass has not proven to be useful at this time.

Things that HELP reduce birds flying into glass windows:

  • Window screens reduce bird collisions by reducing reflections and provide a softer surface when they run into a window.
  • Washable tempura paints – Create pictures and other seasonal decorations on the windows so the birds will not fly into them.
  • Stripes on the outside of glass can break up reflections. It is suggested that vertical lines should be no more than 4 inches apart and horizontal lines 2 inches apart.
  • Fritted glass has a rough surface that reduces reflections on the outside surface.

Things that DO NOT seem to help reduce the number of birds flying into windows:

  • A single predator decal such as a hawk silhouette. Birds do not recognize the picture as a dangerous predator.
  • Light colored blinds or shades inside windows. They might be better than nothing but often the light reflecting off the windows are deceptive.
  • Overhangs and awnings keep birds overhead from flying into windows but birds flying lower see reflections of plants and the sky.
  • Glass slanted at an angle of 20 degrees reduces bird deaths near feeders but does not help birds that are flying parallel to the ground.

More Links to Science Articles

Current Events in Science - NASA’s New Moon Mission

Current Events in Earth Science - Endangered Honey Bees

Kids Current Events - Saving the Birds

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