Volunteer Researchers Work to Prevent Bird Collisions

Nov 11, 2014

Credit http://birds-and-windows.blogspot.com/

The sickening thud of a bird hitting a window is something most people have heard.  It may seem like an isolated incident, unless people take a closer look.

A group of volunteers at Virginia Tech has done just that.  The results are in on a survey we told you about one year ago, when they began tracking bird –window collisions at the Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg.

The calls of birds are drowned out by the hum of buildings and vehicles at the Corporate Research center –a wooded, park like area a few miles from the main campus at Virginia Tech.  This is where I meet Becky Schneider, on a gorgeous blue-sky day.

She says bright sun turns the highly reflective windows here into mirrors.  You’ve seen them. They’re a good look for a building and they offer a one-way view for people inside.  But to birds outside, they suggest a clear path ahead, that is, until the moment of impact.

"So as you can see, this window has the imprint of a mourning dove that flew in… the body and you can even see the wings. It was trying to fly right into that tree that is so brightly reflected in the window."

Schneider is with the Conservation Management Institute . She’s leading a group of volunteers documenting bird collisions here.   But often the dead birds are gone before volunteers can find them, leaving only a trace, like this faint dove shaped image on the glass.

"My volunteer did find it but it was taken away very quickly by one of the many scavengers we have up here in the park."

The year long survey documented 195  bird deaths from window collisions here. Schneider believes the actual number is higher. Most studies focus on the fall or spring migrations. But this one tracked the entire past year. 

"We found 22 ruby throated humming birds, and that’s our number one bird, followed by American Robin, Gray Catbird and Mourning Dove."

Morning Sunrise
Credit http://birds-and-windows.blogspot.com/

Soon volunteers will test potential solutions to this widespread problem. With a small fund from a kick-starter campaign and private donations, they’ll try a special UV liquid that can be applied to windows and is visible to birds, but invisible to humans. But for buildings like these with so many windows, it can be a huge task, because it has to be re-applied every few months. Window films are considered the best, but they can be hard to apply because they’re like that plastic film you put on your smart phone. One lo-tech idea is also an excuse to leave your windows dirty, especially during the spring and fall migrations. Dirt and makes the windows easier for birds to see.

"We have the one year of data and we have identified the worst areas so now is the time get a bunch of different groups of people together. So maybe someone at Virginia Tech in the engineering department or architecture department could think of something that is a win -win for everybody; for the birds and the architects and for the people working in the office so that would be the next for us to put our heads together and come up with something that works for everybody."

Schneider hopes they can complete the study before next spring’s migration – and that it can help identify a solution before the next phase of building begins here at the Corporate Research Center.

Photos and a running tally of the birds found in the year long window collision survey are posted on Schneider’s blog, called, Hope Is the Thing With Feathers.