Duke Students Detail Bird-Window Collisions in Study

The bird-friendly glazing craze has taken to the college campus.

Earlier this month, students at Durham, N.C.-based Duke University published a study outlining buildings and the architectural characteristics throughout its West campus that contribute the most to bird collision deaths. They hope the findings and mitigation techniques, as detailed in the document, can inspire other organizations to address the issue.

A graph from the study.

A graph from the study.

“Bird-window collisions cause an estimated one billion bird deaths annually in the United States,” the abstract to the study reads. “Building characteristics and surrounding habitat affect collision frequency. Given the importance of collisions as an anthropogenic threat to birds, mitigation is essential. Patterned glass and UV-reflective films have been proven to prevent collisions.”

The students surveyed six buildings for three three-week periods over the last year and half, documenting collisions by frequency and bird families. “Consistent with previous studies, we found a positive relationship between glass area and collisions,” the study reads.

Data in the findings include glass area and glass coverage percentage compared to the rest of the exterior.

The highest rate of collisions occurred at the Fitzpatrick building, which sports the most glass. The two smallest buildings with the smallest window areas had the fewest collisions. Meanwhile, the Penn building, which had a bird-deterrent pattern, “caused just two collisions, despite being almost completely made out of glass.”

[View the 16-page report here.]

The data and the students’ efforts prompted a resolution supported by student representatives and eventually got the attention of high level administrators. The university took action with a retrofit at the Fitzpatrick building, where bird-deterrent film was installed at the end of last summer.

Attention to window-bird collisions has been a growing trend among campuses, as documented by the Ecological Research as Education Network’s Bird-Window Collisions Project.

Students at Michigan Technological University, for example, are taking a unique approach to the issue. The school’s department of visual and performing arts has collaborated with the school of forest resources and environmental science for the past three semesters in designs that can serve as both art and a bird-collision deterrent.

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