The Glass Advantage: Bird-friendly Glazing can be a Value-added Product

By Margaret Webb

It’s late fall and one of the harbingers of winter is the semi-annual migration of birds—billions of them. Like many of you, I am part of the North American bird economy, estimated to be $52 million in the U.S. and $8 mil-lion in Canada. I have bird feeders in my backyard, attracting primarily cardinals, finches, chickadees and other species common to my area. I really enjoy watching them and how they each take their turns at the feeder … except for the woodpecker and blue jay; they both seem to think they should be the only ones there.


At the recent IGMA Summer Conference we had a presentation on bird collisions with glass. According to Kristin de Groot of the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Department of Environment and Climate Change Canada, between 16 million and 42 million birds are killed each year in Canada (Machtans et al. 2013) and between 365 million and 988 million in the United States (Loss et al. 2014). It’s hard to wrap one’s head around the magnitude of this problem.

As with the bees, the impact of losing our feathered friends has a significant impact on our environment and economy. In addition to pest control (they consume more than 100,000 metric tons of insects daily, including flies and mosquitos), which is valued at billions of dollars every year in saving agricultural crops, they pollinate our wildflowers and fuel part of our economy. Bird seed purchases in North America total about $7 billion (Wild Bird Feeding Industry – Market Research 2014) and $41 billion is spent annually on trips and equipment associated with bird watching (U.S Fish and Wildlife Service).

The aspects of glass that make it so popular in our homes and buildings—clarity (connection to the outdoors) and reflective properties—are the main hazards for birds. If they can see through it, they will try to fly through it. It’s incumbent on our industry to make glass visible to birds. The windows in my home are littered with decals to make the glass visible, which is an interim solution.


Why use bird-friendly glass or offer it as part of your inventory? While much of the market competes on the low-est price, bird-friendly glass is a value-added product that can help ensure the health of your company. In addition, there are many current incentives and deterrents supporting these purchases. There’s a growing number of jurisdictions that have or are in the process of introducing bird-friendly mandatory legislation including San Francisco, Vancouver, and Toronto, just to name a few. Other jurisdictions have voluntary guidelines, such as environmentally friendly Portland, Ore. This is a growing trend as more and more jurisdictions develop legislation to protect birds. We are also starting to see costly lawsuits against building owners (Cadillac Fairview, a Toronto-based developer vs. Ecojustice) and targeted marketing strategies attacking corporate entities such as Telus, Space X and Elon Musk that don’t protect our birds, such as the negative press and public pressure to end bird deaths.

Both ASTM and CSA are developing nation-wide standards for bird-friendly guidelines. The LEED Pilot Credit 55 encourages the use of glass with bird-friendly patterns or a reduction in glass, though the latter would have a direct detrimental effect on our industry.

There a number of retrofit and aftermarket products and producers of this type of glass. Currently, I use a retrofit product to protect the birds in my yard, but when I replace my windows, I will buy windows with bird-friendly glass. I love my birds and don’t want to hear that horrible thud of one making contact with my windows. There is a growing movement, especially among the millennials, to use bird-friendly products. I, for one, want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

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