Bird-Friendly Legislation Introduced on Local and National Levels

A New Jersey assemblyman has introduced a bill that would require certain buildings in Hackensack Meadowlands to use bird-friendly glass or other design techniques to reduce bird collisions. A related bill on the federal level has also been re-introduced after previous repeated attempts.

The proposed legislation in New Jersey comes months after design renderings of the revitalized multi-billion dollar American Dream megamall project were released, showing the large Meadowlands-based structure with large glass enclosures and facades. The project isn’t mentioned in the bill, though it has drawn scrutiny from groups such as the Bergen County Audubon Society, which called the building a potential “bird-killer.”

Democrat Tim Eustace of the state’s 38th district introduced the bill last week.

“Birds crash into buildings at alarming rates because they cannot see clear or reflective glass and mistake it for clear air space,” it reads. “During the daytime, birds collide with windows because they see reflections of the landscape, such as clouds, sky, vegetation, or the ground, in the glass, or they see through glass to ‘habitat,’ including potted plants or vegetation inside buildings, or to sky on the other side.”

It notes that glass buildings can be bird-friendly by “using glass that is opaque or that contains patterns or films that are opaque on one side and mostly clear on the other, or by incorporating special lighting systems.” It points to a United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) best practices document that was issued last year as guidance, as well as a LEED credit for bird-collision deterrence.

The bill refers to the Hackensack Meadowlands as “a birding hotspot, where more than 285 species have been seen, including 34 species that are listed as threatened, endangered, or species of special concern.” The bird-friendly glass requirement would not apply to single-family homes or multifamily buildings of three stories or less.

Action on the Federal Level

Last week, U.S. House Representatives Mike Quigley (Illinois) and Morgan Griffith (Virginia) re-introduced the Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act, which has been proposed to Congress in every session since 2010, according to Quigley’s office.

The act requires each public building that is constructed, substantially altered, or acquired by the General Services Administration to meet the following standards:

  • at least 90 percent of the exposed facade material from ground level to 40 feet shall not be composed of glass or shall be composed of glass employing elements that preclude bird collisions without completely obscuring vision, ultraviolet (UV) patterned glass that contains UV-reflective or contrasting patterns that are visible to birds, patterns on glass designed in accordance with a rule that restricts horizontal spaces to less than 2 inches high and vertical spaces to less than 4 inches wide, opaque, etched, stained, frosted, or translucent glass, or any combination of these methods (modified glass);
  • at least 60 percent of the exposed facade material above 40 feet shall meet such glass standard;
  • there shall not be any transparent passageways or corners;
  • all glass adjacent to atria or courtyards containing water features, plants, and other materials attractive to birds shall meet the modified glass standard; and
  • outside lighting shall be appropriately shielded and minimized.

This bill exempts “historic buildings of national significance,” as well as the White House and its grounds, the Supreme Court building and its grounds, or the U.S. Capitol and its related buildings and grounds.

“By pursuing cost-neutral, responsible, and realistic solutions, we can play an important role in preserving the intrinsic, cultural, and ecological value birds bring to our society,” Quigley said in a statement. “This bill will put an emphasis on constructing buildings with bird-safe materials and design features, which in turn will help eradicate unnecessary bird deaths caused by collisions with glass.”

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) estimates more than 300 million birds are killed each year as a result of collisions with building glass.

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