When an abnormally large amount of birds were found to have fatally struck buildings at Stony Brook University in 2018, the members of the Four Harbors Audubon Society flew into action.
At issue were mirrored windows on several tall buildings that birds flew into because the reflection looked like clear skies ahead, killing and stunning dozens of birds. The solution was found to be 4-inch by 4-inch stickers that reflect ultraviolet light, signaling to birds to avoid the area — but the light is invisible to humans.
“Most people consider bird-glass collisions to be an urban phenomenon,” John Turner, conservation chair for the Four Harbors Audubon Society, told the crowd at a recent lecture on the issue. “When I began learning about this issue a few years ago, I felt similarly. I thought, ‘It must be the really tall skyscrapers in Manhattan,’ but it turns out that less than 1 percent of bird mortality is caused by high rise buildings.”
Collisions with buildings between four and 11 stories make up about 56 percent of bird deaths and structures between one and three stories account for 44 percent, according to a 2014 study published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications. And between 365 and 988 million birds die annually from colliding with windows, according to the American Bird Conservancy.
The trend comes amid troubling recent news for birds as a species. Researchers announced in September that North America was found to have 3 billion fewer birds now than 50 years ago — a loss of a quarter of avian life.
To help turn the tide, Turner now regularly speaks on the topic of birds hitting windows, hoping to encourage the public to be kind to man’s feathered friends by using bird-friendly window treatments and stickers to lower the incidence of fatal bird strikes.
“There is a lot we can do,” Turner said. “From working on one building to trying to set state and federal legislation into motion, there is substance to this issue and the human impact that caused it.”