New program rates bird-smart glass

A new list of ‘Bird-smart’ products, tested by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), has been released for architects and homeowners to access and install in buildings to reduce bird deaths caused from hitting windows. Photo ©

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) recently launched its Bird-Smart Glass program, which includes a list of tested products available to help stop avian casualties from hitting windows.

For the past six years, ABC has been scientifically testing products that are affordable and aesthetically suitable for architects and homeowners to use to eliminate bird deaths. Six of the 18 products listed are consumer materials meant for homeowners, 14 are commercial for architects and building managers, and two are appropriate for both.

In order to become Bird-Smart-verified, the products must have documented evidence proving effectiveness either through controlled tests or field studies. To test products, ABC puts birds into a 9-m (30-ft) wooden tunnel with two glass panes at the end. One pane is a sample of the material being tested and the other is made of regular glass. The panes are placed in front of a sky backdrop and illuminated by sunlight using mirrors. To pass the bird-smart test, birds must avoid hitting the material 70 percent of the test flights. Nets prevent birds from being injured, and they are released immediately following the test.

“With bird-friendly design requirements in over a dozen United States cities, it is more important than ever to get the word out about effective materials to save birds’ lives,” said ABC’s bird collision campaign manager, Christine Sheppard. “With over half of all bird collisions coming from commercial buildings, architects have a key role to play in ending this tragedy, but individual homeowners need to play a part too.”

Research has found between 365 and 988 million birds die each year in the U.S. after colliding with windows—most commonly, migratory and yard birds, including wood thrush and white-throated sparrows.

For more on birds and glazing, see the Construction Canada article, “The Invisible Threat: Creating Bird-Friendly Buildings,” co-authored by Sheppard.

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