Supporting Bird-Safe Buildings

In the U.S., window strikes are estimated to kill up to 1 billion birds annually, and window strikes are one of the leading causes of death for migratory birds. During the day, birds see the natural habitat mirrored in the glass and fly directly into the window, causing injury, and, in 50 % or more of the cases, death. At night, especially during spring and fall migration, lights in and around buildings can confuse birds, leading to collisions or exhaustion as the birds circle the structure.

To reduce this threat, several cities in North America, including Boston, Chicago, and Toronto, have taken steps to reduce light from tall buildings during migratory bird season. In Boston’s case, this effort comes through the Lights Out Boston! program, on which the Massachusetts Audubon Society partnered with Mayor Tom Menino’s administration. Mass Audubon is hoping to revive their partnership with the City to expand the program. Though programs like Lights Out Boston! are an important step in protecting birds, they are voluntary.

As such, Mass Audubon has endorsed the Federal Bird-safe Buildings Act of 2017 (S.1920/H.R.2542, filed by Senator Booker [D-NJ] and Representative Quigley [D-IL]). This proposed legislation would require all new federal renovations or construction to incorporate bird-safe characteristics like reduced glass surfaces and shielding of outdoor lights. Under this bill, any glass that is used would have to be fritted, screened, shaded, or UV-reflective, qualities proven to reduce bird collisions.

More locally, Mass Audubon submitted comments to the City of Boston on the planned renovation project at One Post Office Square. Boston is located along a major migratory bird pathway, and these migrants utilize small urban parks, including Post Office Square, as ‘stopover’ or resting habitat during migration. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird Project, 91 bird species have been observed at the site. A glass-clad building in such close proximity to a well-known bird habitat presents a clear hazard to birds. On top of this, it is important to avoid large, uninterrupted areas of reflective glass in close proximity to landscape features, since birds may be attracted to the plantings and unable to distinguish the glass reflections. Mass Audubon encouraged the Boston Planning and Development Agency to consider building façade and landscaping designs that minimize bird collision hazards.