Birds-eye View

Picture this: You are flying in the clear blue sky, enjoying the breeze, drifting through the clouds. You are looking at the ground below for a nice tasty meal when out of nowhere, you crash into a clear glass wall. That wall wasn’t there last season! You didn’t even see it coming! But now it’s too late because the impact of the collision has shattered several of your small porous bones, and you breathe your last breath as you fall to the ground.

Sound familiar? Probably not because, well, we don’t fly. But for many birds, this is a reality… and a death sentence. One of the biggest dangers to wild birds in cities are tall building with reflective glass windows and walls. Birds don’t see these as dangerous and fly straight into them, which is lethal.

The New York City Audubon Society estimates they collect thousands of dead birds each year, usually killed by colliding with skyscrapers in the city. The three deadliest buildings:

1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

2. The Jacob K. Javits Convention CenterThe glass exterior of the Bellevue Hospital Building (upper left) is considered one of the deadliest for birds in NYC

3. Bellevue Hospital Center

Bird species extinction rates have been accelerating, not only because of skyscraper collisions. Especially in large cities, the absence of a habitat is what is killing off more birds than anything. Destroying trees and natural forests mean birds have to nest farther and farther apart, which makes the mating and reproducing process much harder.

Science Daily’s Peter Raven, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden, writes that other factors killing off species include selective hunting, invasive alien species and global warming.

Other dangers in cities lie within the buildings. Red lights, televisions and other machines that give off magnetic signals interfere with bird migration, thus disabling them from traditional mating patterns. Several biology professors from SUNY have explained the complicated pattern of bird migration, in that birds use color wavelengths to orient themselves during migration. Multi-colored lights like TV’s and stoplights cause changes in their internal compass and make it difficult for them to fly in correct directions.

In the same story, Raven also estimates that since bird scientists began studying species in 1,500, approximately 156 knows avian species have become extinct.

Some of the most well-known species we will never see again include the dodo bird, carrier pigeon, and several varieties of emu.

drawing of a dodo bird, circa 1600's

SO what can you do? Well… nothing for the poor dodo bird that will never be seen on earth again. But for those of us who own homes with large windows and or reflective glass, there is something we can do to help the birds in our area. Web sites such as offer stickers you can purchase to place on large windows that act as visual deterrents. They sell for $19.95, and homeowners who do not want to splurge for the extra money, you can even get templates online to make your own stencils to place on your windows. The site also claims that everything for sale contains no toxins and will not kill animals.


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