As many of you know, we are passionate about promoting the safety and conservation of birds in Maine. There are so many threats out there, but glass is one of the biggest, killing 100s of millions of birds each year. With more and more glass facades popping up in various new buildings in our state, we are beginning a campaign to promote bird-friendly construction options. Here is a press release we have just sent out:
For Immediate Release
Freeport Wild Bird Supply
541 Route One, Suite 10
Freeport, ME 04032
Contact: Jeannette and Derek Lovitch
January 30, 2019
We at Freeport Wild Bird Supply (FWBS) are becoming increasingly concerned about the threat that an ever-increasing amount of glass on public and private buildings poses to birds. We are noticing more and more how many new buildings are being constructed with large windows to complete glass facades. From hotels to apartment complexes to office space, and on our university campuses, this current architectural trend has been exacerbating a significant problem. While this is attractive to many, reduces construction costs, and can help keep spaces warm in the winter through passive solar heat generation, windows are deadly to birds. Nationwide, it is estimated that a minimum of 300 million birds are killed by building collisions (primarily window strikes), and this number is likely to be as high as 1 billion (www.abcbirds.org), making this the second largest source of human-caused bird mortality. A 2014 study determined that 56% of these kills are caused by non-residential low-rise buildings.
Cities such as Portland and many of our state’s revered educational institutions, among others statewide, like to tout themselves as “green” or “environmentally friendly”. These terms cover many sources of action, of course, but we feel that the very real issue of window-bird collisions is being ignored. Birds fly into windows because glass reflects sky and trees. The more glass there is, the larger the hazard. Buildings are of particular concern during spring and fall migration when large volumes of birds are moving through the sky at night. Bad weather, or disorientation by lighting, often grounds these birds in urban and semi-urban environments. Not having much food or shelter come morning, they must navigate a maze of glass to find more optimal habitat. Many do not survive. We have seen this first-hand on Portland’s streets, and reports of dead and dying birds on sidewalks are numerous and increasing.
Therefore, FWBS is beginning a campaign to urge the implementation of “bird-friendly design” – essentially elements that significantly reduce potential hazards to birds in new construction. Aside from reducing the volume of windows, there are ingenious ways of minimizing or even eliminating the reflectivity of glass surfaces, such as fritted glass or building windows at a slight angle, reflecting the ground, instead of trees or sky, and many of these techniques have thermal benefits as well. The American Bird Conservancy is one organization that has done a lot of work in this area and is an excellent starting point (https://abcbirds.org/program/glass-collisions/). Incorporating bird-friendly design is also eligible for a point towards LEED certification. Aside from saving birds, this is a “value-added” aspect for businesses that, when promoted, can certainly lead to an increase in traffic from concerned citizens and clientele.
We choose to lead by example and do what we can to prevent window strikes. All of the windows at our store are fully covered with a range of consumer products, such as UV-reflective tape and decals, to protect our feeder birds as well as migrants. We use these simple fixes as educational tools to teach the customers in our store how to solve the problem, and we sell the best options for the homeowner.
Regarding the bigger picture, we have contacted a long list of policymakers, from State and town legislatures to various Maine institutions. By no means do windows need to be eliminated in construction, but there are safe ways to do it so that birds are not needlessly killed. Cities and businesses need to be made aware of the issue first, perhaps through educational campaigns or regulation, in order to plan accordingly from the beginning. As an example, two years ago, the University of New England was flooded with pleas to change the design of the Campus Center in Biddeford to reduce the proposed amount of glass, or make it safer for birds. They listened and changed the architectural plans significantly to make a much safer structure that garnered much positive press and goodwill. However, recent construction and plans at other colleges, including Bowdoin and Bates have not followed suit.
The Portland Planning Board recently approved the construction of a hotel and condo complex along Commercial Street. While the concerns that were raised concerned traffic and parking issues, the architectural plans show a project with a lot of windows. And, perhaps most ironically, the schematic for the new 170,000 square foot VetsFirstChoice Headquarters building planned for Portland is frightening, featuring an all-glass façade. This will kill many, many birds, especially desperate migrants attempting to flee the concrete jungle.
We want to live in a state that is proud of minimizing its impact on our wildlife that so many of us depend on for our livelihoods. Birdwatching is enjoyed by over 45million people across the country, with 16million of those people traveling to see birds. It is a multi-billion dollar business, but we are senselessly letting 100s of millions of birds die each year.
Freeport Wild Bird Supply is a retail store, located at 541 Route One in Freeport specializing in products that enhance the appreciation and enjoyment of wild birds, birding, and nature. It is a fully independent store, locally owned and operated by Jeannette and Derek Lovitch of Pownal. See www.freeportwildbirdsupply.com for more information.