According to scientists, some types of dinosaurs may have evolved into the birds we know and admire today. They’ve shared our environment for as long as there have been human beings. Yet modern buildings pose a problem for birds, and are responsible for over 100 million bird deaths a year. A variety of factors mean that birds are often trapped or killed as a result of buildings in both rural and urban areas. In this post, we take a look at the steps that designers and architects can take in reducing bird deaths and working towards a more sustainable relationship with our feathery friends.
With large windows, comes invisible barriers. Birds have a painful habit of flying headlong into glass they can’t see, causing injury and death. Luckily, a new development is altering the composition of glass to make it easier for birds to avoid. Supported by the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, German manufacturer Arnold Glas has created “Ornilux”, a new type of glass made specifically to prevent unnecessary bird deaths. Using a technique known as biomimicry, the glass contains a mesh of UV lines – to birds, the mesh looks a little like a crosshatch or spiderwebs. It’s almost invisible to the human eye.
Another useful addition to a building’s design is the incorporation of decoys. By adding models of predatory birds like owls or hawks, it’s possible to frighten birds away from buildings. The obvious drawback is that models may not be able to match a building’s aesthetic. Furthermore, if it is a sheer glass facade there may not be any useful ledge to place a decoy bird, reducing this solution’s versatility and application.
As we’ve noted in other posts, there has been a push to include greenery in office spaces as a way of boosting productivity. One of the classic inclusions has been “planted atriums”, a way of adding a sense of nature to people’s working lives. However, these types of indoor gardens are highly attractive to birds, who attempt to land on the trees and plants but hit glass first. This is especially problematic in areas like city parks, where a bird’s regular habitat is adjacent to one behind glass, increasing casualties.
Designers should also consider the difficulties faced by nocturnal birds. Nighttime lighting can distract birds from their hunting, causing them to find less food and land in areas that may be threatening. The key is to redesign street lamps outside buildings, as well as lighting attached to the side of the building. Lights can be shaded differently so that the illumination is focused downwards, or office managers can simply turn them off altogether in the right circumstances.
As usual, a crisis is the prelude to innovation. Invented by Aaron Dunkerton, a new type of brick features a hole in which a small bird can nest safely. Dunkerton explains:
“The material properties of brick – low thermal and moisture movement and high durability – make the cavity ideal for nesting without affecting the building structurally, as well as being visually unobtrusive.”
These new bricks can be included as part of a house build to encourage more birds to settle in the area. Placed high up on the wall, birds are safe from predators, mitigating some of the losses to other factors.