Friday, September 14, 2018

Safe Skies: Birds and Window Collisions

Safe Skies Maryland gave the main presentation at the Howard County Bird Club meeting at the Robinson Nature Center last night. Although I personally have been aware of the issue of millions of birds being injured and killed in collisions with windows every year, I took some salient points away from this presentation:

-- Window strikes are not culling unhealthy birds from the population. Healthy birds in breeding condition are being killed at a high rate.

-- While one window or building might kill only a few birds each year, the process is cumulative, and some infamous buildings are notorious for wiping out a large number on a daily basis.

-- The Passenger Pigeon Effect: It was pointed out that we assumed too much about the resilience of the now extinct passenger pigeon in the face of persistent hunting. Over the years, hunters shot down enough of the birds to wipe out the enormous flocks and bring about what seemed an improbable extinction. The window strikes could have the same effect on many species of birds.

-- Legislators are sometimes baffled when presented with this issue and have to be educated. One response sometimes received is a statement like, "I don't even like birds." Doesn't matter if you don't like them! Something that birdwatchers know is how birds and other groups of fauna such as amphibians and butterflies can be environmental indicators. My expansion on this, based on what I've heard or read elsewhere: Decline in numbers of a species, and even an increase in numbers, and changes in behavior or activity can indicate problems in the environment which might be the result of human activity. (Do we need to say this? Even if impacts on wildlife are not important to you, maybe you should keep in mind that damage to the environment sooner or later will impact the human population.)

-- Saving energy is more important to some people. It was noted that the same modifications to windows which reduce the cost of heating and cooling a building interior will help reduce or eliminate bird strikes on windows.

-- Modifying existing windows is easier and cheaper than you might think. The best method towards this aim which was discussed the most during this presentation was hanging paracord down the outside of a window at four-inch intervals. (There are some considerations in doing such an installation, such as making sure you pre-shrink the cords before hanging them on especially large windows.) The object is to create an obstruction visible to birds so that they don't think they can fly through what appears to be an open space.

-- Increased development with more new buildings and architectural trends incorporating more glass is increasing the problem. This is taking place in both urban and suburban settings.

Link to Safe Skies Maryland   .  I'm including it under my Nature and Wildlife Links in the margin, and there are Facebook pages for this organization and Safe Skies Howard County.