Quantcast

Study Finds Up to One Billion Birds Killed in Building Collisions Each Year

In the most comprehensive study of its kind, involving the review and analysis of almost two dozen studies and more than 92,000 records, federal scientists have found that between 365 and 988 million birds are likely killed in the U.S. each year as a result of collisions with buildings.

The study, Bird–Building Collisions in the U.S.: Estimates of Annual Mortality and Species Vulnerability was published in a peer-reviewed journal, The Condor: Ornithological Applications in Jan. 2014. It was authored by Scott R. Loss, Sara S. Loss, and Peter P. Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Tom Will of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Our analysis indicates that building collisions are among the top anthropogenic threats to birds and, furthermore, that the several bird species that are disproportionately vulnerable to building collisions may be experiencing significant population impacts from this anthropogenic threat,” the authors say.

The study provides quantitative evidence to support the conclusion that building collisions are second only to feral and free-ranging pet cats (estimated to kill as many as 3 billion birds each year) as the largest source of direct human-caused mortality for U.S. birds.

The Data on Buildings and Birds

In examining by far the largest building collision dataset collected to date—92,869 individual records—the scientists: (1) systematically quantified total bird collision mortality; (2) generated estimates of mortality for different classes of buildings (including residences from one to three stories tall; low-rise nonresidential buildings and residential buildings from four to 11 stories tall; and high-rise buildings more than 12 stories tall); (3) conducted sensitivity analyses to identify which model parameters contributed the greatest uncertainty to mortality estimates; and (4) quantified species-specific vulnerability to collisions across all buildings and for each building type.

Based on their analyses of 23 studies, they found that roughly 56 percent of mortality occurred at low-rises, 44 percent at residences and one percent at high-rises. The annual bird mortality at residences was estimated to be between 159 and 378 million birds (median 253 million); between 62 and 664 million birds (median 246 million) at low-rise buildings; and between 104,000 and 1.6 million birds (median 508,000) at high-rise buildings.

Even though the number of collisions at each high-rise building is high, the total number of these buildings is smaller; the larger number of low-rises and especially homes produces high total mortality.

According to American Bird Conservancy’s (ABC) Dr. Christine Sheppard, who heads the only national collisions campaign program in the U.S.: “This study presents a significantly more robust estimate and a much-needed refinement of the data on building collision mortality. The improved understanding and credibility it provides on the issue will help us better advance collision reduction efforts such as those we’ve already seen in places such as San Francisco, Oakland, Minnesota and Toronto.”

Sheppard authored the widely used publication, Bird-Friendly Building Design which provides comprehensive solutions to reduce bird mortality from building collisions. The 58-page publication contains more than 110 photographs and 10 illustrations and focuses on both the causes of collisions and the solutions, with a comprehensive appendix on the biological science behind the issue.

Bird Species Most Impacted by Building Collisions

According to the study, the species most commonly reported as building kills (collectively representing 35 percent of all records) were White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Ovenbird and Song Sparrow. However, the study found that some species are disproportionately vulnerable to building collisions. Several of these are birds of national conservation concern and fall victim primarily to certain building types. Those species include:

  • Golden-winged Warbler and Canada Warbler (low-rises, high-rises and overall)
  • Painted Bunting (low-rises and overall)
  • Kentucky Warbler (low-rises and high-rises)
  • Worm-eating Warbler (high-rises)
  • Wood Thrush (residences)

For species that are vulnerable to collisions at more than one building class or overall—including Golden-winged Warbler, Painted Bunting, Kentucky Warbler and Canada Warbler—building collision mortality appears substantial and may worsen population declines. For species identified as highly vulnerable to collisions for one building class but not across building types (Wood Thrush at residences, Worm-eating Warbler at high-rises), building collisions may still represent a threat to populations.

Several species exhibit high vulnerability to collisions (relative to population size) regardless of building type, including Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Brown Creeper, Ovenbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Gray Catbird and Black-and-white Warbler.

Tips from ABC on Reducing Bird Collisions at Home

When it comes to preventing bird collisions, home-owners have a vital role to play. In general, the goal is to make windows—which birds can’t see as people do—visible. There are several easy ways to do this:

  • General guidelines: Affixing a pattern of tapes or other materials to windows can help make the glass visible to birds. Most birds will avoid windows with vertical stripes spaced four inches apart, or horizontal stripes spaced two inches apart. More complicated or irregular patterns will also work as long as they follow those general guidelines. For best results, patterns must be on the outside surface of the windows.
  • ABC has create a product especially for the purpose of preventing home window collisions. ABC BirdTape—created with the support of the Rusinow Family Foundation—is made to last outdoors, easy to use, and inexpensive. 

  • You can use basic craft supplies to make windows safer for birds. Apply tempera paint (available at most art and craft stores) freehand with brush or sponge, or use a stencil. Tempera is nontoxic and long lasting, even in rain, but comes right off with a damp rag or sponge.
  • Find stencils at craft stores or download free stencils online. Make seasonal designs a family project. Use tape to create patterns. Any opaque tape can work, but translucent ABC BirdTape transmits light and is made to last outdoors.
  • Most window films designed for external use are not patterned and will not deter birds. However, interior window films come in many colors and styles, and can be applied on the outside of windows to prevent collisions.
  • If you don’t want to alter the glass itself, you can stretch lightweight netting, screen, or other material over the window. The netting must be several inches in front of the window, so birds don’t hit the glass after hitting the net. Several companies sell screens, solar shades, or other barriers that can be attached with suction cups or eye hooks.
  • Prefabricated decals can work if spaced properly. The shape does not matter; birds see decals shaped like raptors as obstacles but not as predators. To be effective, decals must be spaced no more than four inches apart horizontally or two inches apart vertically—more closely than recommended by most manufacturers.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored

Dr. Michael Mann on Extreme Weather: 'We Predicted This Long Ago'

You can't go far in the climate movement without hearing the name of Dr. Michael E. Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University and author of The Hockey Stick and The Climate Wars and, more recently, The Madhouse Effect.

Dr. Mann came to public attention back in 1998 when he and two colleagues published the landmark MBH98 paper documenting average global temperatures across the centuries with a line graph whose steep uptick in recent years earned it the name "the hockey stick." The paper—with its inconvenient truth about the consequences of fossil fuels—made him a target for climate deniers, but Dr. Mann refused to be silenced and has become one of America's leading public voices for a scientific and rational approach to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
The Dutch Weed Burger is made from three types of algae. The Dutch Weed Burger

How Marine Algae Could Help Feed the World

By William Moomaw and Asaf Tzachor

Our planet faces a growing food crisis. According to the United Nations, more than 800 million people are regularly undernourished. By 2050, an additional 2 to 3 billion new guests will join the planetary dinner table.

Meeting this challenge involves not only providing sufficient calories for every person, but also assuring a balanced diet that includes the protein and nutrients that are essential to good health. In a newly published study, we explain how marine microalgae could be a sustainable solution for solving global macro-hunger.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A Bureau of Land Management contractor's helicopter forces a wild horse into a trap during the recent roundup at the Salt Wells Creek. Steve Paige

Brutal Outlook for Healthy Wild Horses and Burros: BLM Calls for Shooting 90,000

On Thursday, the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recklessly voted to approve recommendations that call on the Bureau of Land Management to shoot tens of thousands of healthy wild horses and burros.

At its meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado, the advisory board recommended that BLM achieve its on-range population goal of 26,715 wild horses and burros while also phasing out the use of long-term holding facilities—both within three years.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
www.youtube.com

‘Geostorm’ Movie and Climate Hacking: Are the Dangers Real?

By Jane A. Flegal and Andrew Maynard

Hollywood's latest disaster flick, "Geostorm," is premised on the idea that humans have figured out how to control the earth's climate. A powerful satellite-based technology allows users to fine-tune the weather, overcoming the ravages of climate change. Everyone, everywhere can quite literally "have a nice day," until—spoiler alert!—things do not go as planned.

Admittedly, the movie is a fantasy set in a deeply unrealistic near-future. But coming on the heels of one of the most extreme hurricane seasons in recent history, it's tempting to imagine a world where we could regulate the weather.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Area 1002 of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain. Wikimedia Commons

GOP-Controlled Senate Paves Way for Oil Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Senate Republicans' narrow passage of the 2018 budget plan on Thursday opened the door for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR).

But Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups criticized the GOP for sneaking the "backdoor drilling provision" through the budget process. Past proposals to drill in the refuge have consistently failed.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
iStock

Corporate Fleets Making the Switch to Electric Vehicles

By Gina Coplon-Newfield and Sung-Jae Park

Recently, 10 major transnational corporations launched EV100, a new global initiative to slash emissions by increasing the number of corporate fleet electric vehicles (EV) on the road. EV100 companies, including Ikea, Unilever and HP, are committing to, by 2030, integrate EVs into their owned or leased fleets and install EV charging stations for customers and employees.

The full initial list of companies, many of which operate many thousands of fleet vehicles, includes: Baidu, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Heathrow Airport, HP Inc., IKEA Group, LeasePlan, METRO AG, PG&E, Unilever and Vattenfall. Vattenfall, the Swedish power company that serves most of Europe, intends to meet the campaign's commitments, and then some. "Replacing our whole 3,500 car fleet with EV in the coming five years, working with our customers to deploy charging infrastructure, and building northern Europe's biggest connected charging network, are three examples of actions we are taking to promote a sustainable and climate smarter living for customers and citizens," Magnus Hall, CEO of Vattenfall, said.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
www.youtube.com

Losses From California Wildfires Top $1 Billion, Expected to Rise 'Dramatically'

Insured losses from fires in Northern California have topped $1 billion and are expected to rise "dramatically," state insurance officials announced Thursday.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights
Damage from Hurricane Maria. La Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica

Puerto Rico's Revival Depends on Empowering Small-Scale Farmers

Reporting by Saulo Araujo

Houses without roofs and trees without leaves is all the eyes could see in the week following the devastation that Hurricane Maria wrought. The Category 5 storm with 150+ miles per hour winds was the strongest to hit the island in over a century, leaving the entire population without water and power. Weeks later 3 million people are still without electricity.

Up in the mountains, small-scale farmers lost their crops, and their ability to feed their families was abruptly leveled. La Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica (Boricuá) a grassroots organization of more than 100 families made up of small-scale farmers, farmworkers and organizers across Puerto Rico and the islands of Vieques & Culebra, continues working to communicate with their members in rural areas and to assess the damages. Boricua has made great progress in the last three decades to organize and support farmers, facilitate farmer-to-farmer trainings, and build solidarity nationally and globally. They are helping to fuel agroecology on the island, bringing locally grown, nutritious food to their communities and to market.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox