District of Columbia aims to prevent migratory bird deaths with new building rules

Proposed law in Washington, D.C. to require building windows include materials to prevent bird collisions

National Weekend Edition /
Mar.March 26, 2022 03:00 PM

(iStock)

The nation’s capital wants building owners to be more bird-brained.

A new law proposed by Washington’s City Council aims to prevent hundreds of migratory birds from slamming into windows and falling to their deaths, DCist reported. It would require new buildings to include qualified “bird-friendly” materials to prevent such collisions, including screens or decals on glass visible to birds, or films and coatings to make windows less reflective.

The Migratory Local Wildlife Protection Act would apply to new buildings and those undergoing substantial renovations. It’s aimed at commercial buildings, multi-unit residential buildings, institutional facilities and city-owned structures, not single-family homes. The changes add little to construction costs and can increase energy efficiency.

The proposal comes after volunteers of a local nonprofit, City Wildlife, found 4,500 birds in the past decade either killed or injured after colliding with glass buildings within 13 blocks between Union Station and Chinatown. In 2012, they picked up 200 birds. After a flurry of building projects, the annual avian casualties rose to 700.

“We know that universal mandates that bird-friendly glass be used in construction could prevent the needless death and injury of millions, if not billions, of birds,” the legislation says. “The District can do its part by prohibiting the use of unsafe building materials that put birds and other migratory wildlife at greatest risk.”

Washington would join other cities with bird-friendly policies, including New York and Portland, Oregon, as well as Minnesota and Illinois.

Building collisions are among the top human-related threats to birds, killing an estimated 365 million to 988 million birds each year, according to research by the Smithsonian Institution and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In Washington, most birds that collide with buildings are migratory, flying north or south along the Atlantic Flyway, according to City Wildlife. They include white-throated sparrows, ovenbirds, common yellowthroats and woodcocks.

“They fly at night and they come down and land in our cities, and they’re not used to these urban canyons — these glass canyons — that we have for them,” said Anne Lewis, president of City Wildlife. “They don’t see the glass, so they crash into it.”

Lewis said two things make glass hazardous to birds.

“The first is that it’s clear and the birds don’t see it, so they think they can fly through it,” she said. “And the other is that the glass can act as a mirror and is reflective, and in that case, very often they see trees reflected in glass and they try to fly into the trees.”

A 2019 study in the journal Science found that 30 percent of the bird population in the U.S. and Canada has vanished since 1970, a loss of nearly 3 billion breeding adult birds.

[DCist] – Dana Bartholomew





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