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November 8, 2010

UV reflectors seem to be cutting fatal bird strikes

The accumulation or avian carcasses this fall on The Baltimore Sun's pedestrian bridge over Centre Street seems to be way down.

Sun bridgeIn years past, as many as a dozen birds would die each autumn in collisions with the bridge's glass walls. Their feathery bodies would lie on the ledges for months until maintenance personnel could get out there to scoop them up. It made for a pretty ghastly stroll into work from the parking garage each morning

Some of the birds would not die right away, and we would watch as the stunned and broken songbirds slowly expired. It's likely more fell to the street and never got counted. Others may have been temporarily stunned, and eventually flew off. 

Apparently, the critters simply cannot see the glass. They see the bridge and its (interior) railings as a place to rest. Or, perhaps they see The Sun's grove of ginkgo trees through the glass and try to fly through for a rest in the branches. 

When the problem was brought to The Sun's managers, they responded by purchasing ultraviolet-reflective decals. When applied to the glass, the manufacturers said, the stickers would alert the birds to the presence of the glass, and they would veer away.Sapsucker fatality

So far, so good. Most of last year's fatal collisions occurred in October, during the fall migrations. By the end of that month, we were approaching 10, if I recall correctly. This year, through the first week of November, we can count only three fatal collisions. One actually occurred late in the summer - a white dove or pigeon with a blue band. A second - a sapsucker (photo), I suspect - died early in the autumn. A sparrow fell late in October.

But, so far at least, that's it. It seems as though the application of the UV decals has saved a few of the millions of birds that die in collisions with buildings each year. Our thanks to The Sun managers and maintenance employees who made it happen.

I'm told the Wisconsin Humane Society is selling window decals. You can even build your place with bird-safe glass, if you can afford it.

(SUN PHOTOS: Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:26 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Phenomena


Thanks for mentioning this product, Frank. My work building has a tall wall of glass, and each summer the carnage is frequently a couple of birds per week. Beautiful songbirds: cardinals, goldfinches, thrushes, hummers, indigo buntings ... it breaks my heart.

I may try to convince our facilities dept. or the new general manager to put these up, since there will be very little visual impact to the human observer.

I started using these a couple of years ago when I replaced all my windows & added some more fixed glass high on the east wall. I used to get several dead/injured birds every year, plus occasional "hits" & stuns. The decals really seem to have helped -- no fatalities --and no hits that I can recall.

I actually wanted most to deter destructive damage to surrounding woodwork by a scaring off a huge, determined pileated woodpecker, but the most noticeable effect seems to be with the smaller birds. I put up both the transparent and the (less expensive) dark versions, -- & got a lot of laughs at first, but 2 1/2 years later all are in place & doing the job.

Have to say that the transparents are hardly noticeable from indoors, but personally I find the dark shadows look pretty cool against the sky, too.

Definitely encourage their use -- for the price they are worth a try.

Here in Brazil, the National Park Serra da Capivara solved the problem by making an eagle with adhesive strips. The birds avoid flying near these sites

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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