“I ‘d like to prevent birds from flying into my windows,” writes Phil Larose in Toronto. “How can I do this? Is there an ultraviolet light that I can shine on the inside of a window that will deter birds? I’ve heard they can see UV light.” Birds flying into windows is indeed a serious, tragic issue – and the numbers are staggering. The Globe has previously reported that one to ten million birds are killed each year in Toronto due to collisions with buildings and other structures.
Carolyn Ireland, The Globe’s Real Estate reporter, looked into your question:
Migratory birds do face greater peril as glass towers continue to rise in Canadian cities. Birds are dying from collisions with windows because they do not perceive glass; they see the sky and tree canopy reflected back at them.
Fortunately, the increasing awareness of concerned humans like you has helped to bring about solutions that really do work, according to Michael Mesure, founder and executive director of FLAP Canada.
FLAP, or Fatal Light Awareness Program, has been helping to create safe passage for migratory birds since 1993.
Architect and FLAP partner John Robert Carley uses Feather Friendly Film DIY tape at his own house. The peel-and-stick tape leaves a subtle pattern of dots on the outside of the glass. Humans barely notice it but to birds the visual cues and contrast signal a big cautionary sign.
Mr. Carley, who has advised Toronto city council on the issue, says it’s vital that the solution be applied to the exterior of the glass because that’s the first surface the birds see.
Other effective technologies include paracord lines which hang from the top of the window and sway in the wind, and black fibreglass screening that hangs several inches in front of the glass.The critical areas to protect are up to five stories above grade because most birds aren’t flying much above the tree canopy.
By the way – those commonly-seen hawk-shaped silhouettes do not deter birds. As for your question about ultraviolet light, it’s true that birds can see that part of the spectrum of natural sunlight that humans can’t.
FLAP says UV technologies hold promise but field studies show more work needs to be done before these solutions can be rolled out. Mr. Mesure laments that it’s difficult for individual condo owners to implement any of these solutions on their own.
Regulations are in place for new construction, but some builders are finding loopholes because they think buyers are fearful of anything that might interfere with their unobstructed views. “Their customers are also going to be unhappy if they find dead birds lying on their patio,” Mr. Carley says.
The Feather Friendly pattern provides more than 98 per cent clear viewing, the architect adds. The more buyers choose bird-friendly builders, the more they will pay attention, Mr. Carley says.
Office workers and condo residents at older buildings can also agitate to have their management provide a retrofit solution.
Mr. Mesure is heartened to see that people love birds – and if they collectively pull together on this issue, developers, building managers and politicians will respond. “They believe in this,” he says of Canadians. “If anything, it’s amazing what power in numbers can do.”