A recent study from Cornell University estimates that between 365 million to 1 billion birds are dying every year in the United States because of building collisions. Artificial light and the transparent and reflective properties of glass are thought to be the main causes of bird collisions. City lights can attract birds at night and cause them to fly in circles and become disoriented. Birds often see glass either as empty air or as a mirror reflecting the surrounding landscape.
For some property owners, it’s even become a significant maintenance issue, requiring the regular cleanup of the bodies of dead birds on the surrounding streets and sidewalks. This is not only bad for the birds, but can be an unsightly image for customers, visitors and pedestrians as they move through areas around a property. Bird remains can also attract insects and other pests.
What can you, the pest management professional, do to help prevent this situation for customers? There are actually several things you can recommend to them — many of which you can also offer as a service:
- Use visual or ultraviolet (UV) bird window decals, films or paints. There are many different products available for this purpose, but the basic idea is the same: Put something on the surface of the glass to make it more visible to birds. This can be a small sticker in the middle of the windows, or a larger textured or solid film that covers some or all of the glass surface to make it visible to birds. Some products are transparent to the human eye, but opaque in UV, which is visible to most birds. This makes a good solution for areas where you don’t want visible images or textures, but still want to help make them visible to birds.
- Turn off exterior lights, especially during peak migration season. Many species of birds fly south in the fall and fly north in the spring. Up to half of these birds travel over a given city in six or seven days throughout the season. If urban areas would make efforts to reduce light pollution, especially during these periods of peak migration traffic, it would significantly lower the risk to birds.
- Move indoor plants away from windows. Indoor plants can look like inviting places for birds to perch, causing them to try to fly to indoor spaces through windows and glass surfaces. Moving indoor plants to interior areas makes them less visible to birds and reduces the temptation to try to fly inside a building.
- Close blinds when possible. One of the simplest things you can do is close any blinds or curtains that windows may have. This creates a visual barrier that birds can see, and helps stop them from trying to flying through the glass.
- Bird control products. Using bird control products and best practices can help discourage birds from dangerous areas. Netting can be used to block birds from hitting harder surfaces that could injure them. Bird spikes can keep birds from finding good perching or nesting spots nearby. Electronic devices that use the sounds of predators, ultrasonic noise, or flashes of light to scare birds away around buildings.
- Bird safe design. When building new structures, an increasing number of architects and builders factor bird safety into how to design a project. This includes things like using less-reflective types of glass, adding visual textures on glass surfaces that match other design elements, and reducing the amount of glass used on the exterior of buildings. If a commercial customer of yours is constructing a new facility, be sure to bring this up.
Certain urban areas are more dangerous to birds than others because of their location along migration routes and the amount of light pollution and glass covered buildings. In some cities, where the danger to birds is high, there are now laws or programs to encourage people to take action to help prevent bird collisions.
For example, since 1995, the city-backed Lights Out program in Chicago, Ill., has encouraged owners and managers to dim or turn off exterior lighting on high rises during bird migration season. San Francisco, Calif., adopted bird safety rules into its building code in 2011, making it a requirement for any renovation or new building projects in the city. It can be worth an investigation into whether there are any local organizations or ordinances that offer more specific bird protection guidelines for your market. Being knowledgeable and proactive in this arena can give you a competitive edge.
Sean Kelly is a digital marketing consultant for Bird-X, a Chicago, Ill.-based bird and pest control manufacturer.