Imagine a planet without birds. According to the American Bird Conservancy, across North America, the estimated amount of birds killed annually in collision with buildings ranges from 100 million to one billion birds. Birds can see ultraviolet (UV) light and rely on their vision to choose mates, find food and scan for predators, but birds cannot see glass.
On Tuesday, Sept. 26, Senior Biologist at New Hampshire Audubon Laura Deming came to Keene State College to give a speech on bird-friendly buildings. The speech was held in the Putnam Science Center at KSC.
The event was organized by Brett Amy Thelen, who works for the Harris Center for Conservation Education, a non-profit organization based out of Hancock, New Hampshire.
The Harris Center has a partnership with KSC that supports undergraduate field research in environmental studies, geography and related disciplines. A few times a year, talks are scheduled by Thelen around campus that have a biological or ecological focus.
Thelen said she thought it was appropriate to have this talk because of all the buildings on campus that have giant glass windows and how bird collisions is a growing problem on campus.
Thelen said, “I didn’t realize the extent of the problem, I’ve seen some of the statistics, but I was pretty shocked by the number of birds that have died in collisions.”
An idea Thelen came up with was to retrofit the windows on campus with some kind of decal, film or sticker to help the birds see the glass. She also thought about monitoring birds that have hit glass windows at KSC.
KSC first year Andrew Heymann was at the talk Tuesday night and said, “I was pretty blown away by the number of bird that die from colliding into windows. I never realized how big of an issue this actually is.”
Heymann was at the talk for extra credit for his management class, but said he actually enjoyed the talk because of how surprising the facts were and realized how such an unpopular topic can still be a huge problem. Heymann said, “The speech definitely opened my eyes.”
Deming has been doing these speeches for two years now. She said, “I wasn’t aware of these collisions until a few years ago, [when] the American Bird Conservancy came out with its guidelines.” Deming said in learning about the issue, it became clear how big of a problem this is.
“There are a lot of things killing birds, and some of those things are really complicated and difficult like climate change, but putting something over your window is not,” Deming said.
Deming said the ways to make your windows bird-friendly can be by using different shades of glass and putting patterns on the outside of them. Most of the glass is energy efficient, which helps cut down glare and reduce energy cost of heating and cooling the building.
One thing Deming said she would like to try and do was to make homeowners and building designers understand that there are a few things that they can do that are not difficult and could save a lot of birds.
Deming said birds are really important for seed dispersal and go after a lot of insect pest that get into our food crops. Deming explained the more depressed ecosystems are by losing species, the less stable they become.
Deming said this is just one problem among many; if we don’t do anything about it, than we are going to lose things and you can’t replace those things.
Matt Kahlman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org