Facility Dude

The birds, your buildings and you

By FacilityDude
May 19, 2014

Facilities Management

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In Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds," we played the victim to our feathered friends. In real life, a more accurate title would be "The Buildings," a horror story revolving around the potentially millions of annual bird deaths due to collision with windows. This not only negatively affects bird populations, it can also be a great hassle for facility managers who have to deal with the maintenance management consequences, ranging from bird disposal to window repair. For the good of your facility, as well as the well-being of friendly fowl everywhere.

A major concern

The estimates on the number of bird deaths from building collisions - otherwise known as bird strikes - are pretty wide, and one of the most frequently cited estimations sets the range between 97.6 million and 975.6 million, according to the BBC. This 1990 estimate by biologist Daniel Klem is largely speculative, however. Klem estimated that between one and 10 birds would be killed by hitting windows on every building in the U.S., and multiplied those numbers by the number of houses in the U.S.

The estimate isn't meant to be used as hard-and-fast figures, but rather to raise awareness about the potential seriousness of bird strikes, the BBC reported. To further understand the effect of bird strikes, you can also look at a graph from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which cites collisions as the second-leading cause of bird deaths in the country at 31.7 percent.

Yet, facility managers probably don't need statistics to encourage them to safeguard against bird strikes - if you've had to deal with them before, then it's likely you'll want to put an end to them. They can dirty, chip or break windows and, more importantly, the remains can be a sad, unwanted sight that upsets tenants and attracts unwelcome predators.

The problem

The birds, your buildings and you Birds seem to run into buildings for a number of reasons, according to Audubon magazine. Strikes can occur with any type of building, including commercial, educational and residential. Birds don't see glass as a barrier, and are either attracted or blinded by interior lights. They can also be lured into the glass by interior plants that look like food. Sometimes, bright lights on skyscrapers confuse birds into thinking that the lights are navigational cues like the moon or stars, drawing them into danger. Particularly transparent glass can also reflect the outdoor scenery, so that birds think they're flying toward more vegetation.

Solutions

In effect, the two main problems are transparency and reflectivity. If part of your building maintenance deals with the consequences of bird strikes, then you can take the following steps to minimize collisions.

Best practices for avoiding bird collisions can range from the sophisticated and time-consuming to the easy but still effective. One of the biggest steps you can take is to apply glass treatment that will block birds' views into a building. The areas of a building most susceptible to bird strikes are lobbies, atriums, areas near greenery and supposed passageways that birds might mistake as a path to another open space. You can also install frosted glass or special bird safe glass with ultra-violet patterns.

Use simple techniques that reduce the transparency and reflectivity of your glass during migration season. Close your blinds or shades, especially at night when birds will be attracted to the light. Not only does this help birds, it also helps retain heat in your building - meaning good energy efficiency management. Move outdoor plants away from windows or position bird feeders far from windows so that they're attracted elsewhere. Finally, reduce your use of display, decorative, rooftop and advertising lighting as well as spotlighting overnight. Again, this can be good energy management practice as well.

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