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The Biggest Hazard to Birds in New York City—Buildings

In New York City, tens of thousands of birds die each year after colliding with buildings. Policy and design measures can make the city much safer for its feathered inhabitants.
October 7, 2019, 6am PDT | Camille Fink
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New York City Audubon estimates that between 90,000 and 230,000 birds are killed each year as the result of collisions with buildings in the city, reports Rachel Holliday Smith. "Experts say a few factors make certain buildings more deadly than others — including shiny, mirror-like surfaces near vegetation, which tricks birds into flying toward branches and leaves reflected in glass."

The organization tracks collisions through reports from volunteers, which means many collisions likely go unreported and parts of the city mistakenly appear relatively safe for birds. "Another reason collisions may happen a lot more in undercounted areas: Most bird deaths happen below the tree line — not on glass up high on a skyscraper," notes Smith.

Steps have been taken to better protect birds, including passage of a state bill for a panel focused on construction as well as pending local legislation that would require bird-safe features be incorporated into the design of newly constructed or altered buildings. "That could mean installing specially designed 'bird friendly' glass, creating a screen or barrier in front of glass or adding decals, stripes or dots to glass so birds know to steer clear," says Smith.

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Published on Wednesday, October 2, 2019 in The City
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