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Kalamazoo Nature Center preventing bird strikes with UV-reflective glass

Mar 10, 2016

The American Goldfinch
Credit Rodney Campbell

You might be aware that the Great Lakes region is a major migratory bird flyway.

What you might not know is that hundreds of millions of those birds will crash into windows and die.

Sarah Reding is part of a movement that’s trying to help reduce that problem. Reding is the vice president of conservation at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Reding tells us that a special kind of glass was used when constructing the Nature Center’s Nature’s Way Preschool in an effort to reduce the number of bird strikes.

She explains that birds become confused by the reflections in windows, and fail to interpret them as a solid surface. They see the sky or landscape reflected, and assume they’re just going to fly on through.

The glass they used for the preschool takes advantage of “the principle that birds can see [ultraviolet light],” Reding says. “It has a striped vertical pattern in the glass itself,” that reflects UV light to help birds see the window and steer clear.

So far, Reding says the results have been impressive.

“It works great. We’ve had no strikes at all, so it’s really been successful.”

This UV-reflective glass is probably the most elegant way to prevent bird strikes so far, but it’s also one of the more expensive. In case you can’t afford to replace all your windows, Reding says there are other options available.

At the Nature Center itself, Reding tells us they hang a sort of plastic mesh over the windows that doesn’t prevent birds from hitting the windows altogether, but rather cushions the blow so that they can bounce off and fly away.

“When people ask us [how to prevent bird strikes], they still want to be able to see out of a clear pane window, and they don’t want any obstruction,” she says. The plastic mesh they use is hard to see but definitely still visible, “so people don’t like that because they want to see a clear view out of their window.” She still recommends the mesh as one of the least obstructive solutions.

Other options include hanging streamers on the window, stringing fishing line in vertical lines in front of the glass, UV-reflective window paint, and stick-on decals.

“That’s why this glass is the perfect thing, because unless you look at it at a certain angle, you look out and you don’t notice it,” Reding says.

Another tip: If you have bird feeders, keep them either really close to the glass or really far away from it.

“When a bird takes off, think about it, they’re not going as fast as they take off,” Reding says. “But when they take off from two feet or three feet, they’ve already got some momentum, and they hit that window and then they hit their head and that’s, you know, they become damaged and die.”