British Columbia

Window changes on UBC campus reflect brighter future for birds

Up to a billion birds die each year in North America from flying into windows, and it's a problem the University of British Columbia is trying to solve — starting with its own campus.

UBC's goal is to make all new buildings bird-friendly by 2020

Graduate student Jingwei Xiong demonstrates a bird-strike monitor she helped develop. (CBC/Evan Mitsui)

Each year, up to a billion birds die in North America from flying into windows. It's a problem the University of British Columbia is trying to solve — starting with its own campus.

Spring in particular is when thousands of songbirds and other migrating species find their way onto campus.

The Point Grey campus is adjacent to the Fraser River Estuary, where birds from 20 countries swing by on their migratory routes from Alaska to Argentina.

The campus is also home to a lot of glass. Birds can't perceive glass, and often fly right into it.

"We've discovered that approximately an estimated 10,000 birds die from collisions with windows at UBC per year," said Penny Martyn, manager of green buildings on campus. 

Since 2014, students have been studying how the campus affects migrating birds. Now, the university is taking steps to make itself more bird-friendly by reviewing its guidelines for buildings.

The guidelines are designed to be implemented without additional construction or renovation costs.

Green building manager Penny Martyn is among a group of UBC staff and students who are working to prevent migratory birds from colliding with windows. (CBC/Evan Mitsui)

They include minimizing the use of glass, minimizing reflection on the glass with markings, installing screens and shades, and pulling down indoor blinds.

The goal is for all new buildings at UBC to comply by these guidelines by 2020.

Homeowners can also do their part to make their windows more bird-friendly, Martyn said.

"You can create designs around your windows, even doing things like putting your blinds down, not having house plants too close to the inside of your window," she said.

"There's quite a few things you can do, especially in the migration times of the year."


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