Wednesday January 24, 2018
Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory educates designers, builders, and owners of new buildings about window collisions
Port Washington, WI - The number of birds killed in collisions with buildings in the United States is shockingly large. Researchers estimate that 599 million birds die in the United States following window collisions... every year.
To reduce Wisconsin’s contribution to that alarming total, the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory in 2017 launched an innovative outreach program targeted at architects, builders, and other decision makers who are considering new buildings or building retrofits.
The goal: to raise awareness and implementation of strategies and materials that have been proved to prevent bird-window collisions.
Dr. Bryan Lenz, the Observatory’s chief scientist, directed the program, which was funded by a grant from the C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant Program of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and by a generous matching grant from Bird City Wisconsin.
Persuading designers and property owners to construct and operate bird-friendly buildings presents a challenge, says Lenz, since most people are unaware there is a window-collision problem and addressing the problem means incurring additional costs.
Lenz, who is also the director of Bird City Wisconsin, tackled both challenges head-on, introducing prominent local organizations to the scale of the collisions problem, presenting workable solutions, and consulting during the design process to achieve the best possible outcomes. Among his successes:
-- Consulting with a senior-living company about ways to make a planned new office building bird-friendly.
-- Advising a construction firm on effective ways to present bird-friendly designs to clients at the beginning of the design phase, when incorporating bird-safe strategies incurs the least cost.
-- Reviewing renderings of a university’s new science center to identify areas of reflective glass that could be replaced with fritted, bird-friendly glass.
Perhaps his biggest success sprang from a partnership the Observatory forged with the American Bird Conservancy, Bird City Wisconsin, and the Department of Geography and School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
The partnership is developing new products to study and alleviate window collisions, using decals to retrofit problem windows in the architecture building at UWM, and engaging in productive conversations about how the group’s bird-saving efforts might be scaled up and expanded to other universities and the general public.
The year-long project helped Lenz get his foot in the door with decision makers, leaving him hopeful that the parties involved will be willing to consider bird-friendly design in the future. "We started a number of new conversations -- some planned and some fortuitous," he says, "and have been successful in getting building-design changes in place, with more hopefully to follow.”
“The lesson learned,” he says, “is that a carefully crafted approach and a good deal of persistence can really pay off when trying to convince others to spend time, effort, and money to reduce window collisions."
The Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory (wglbbo.org) is a research, education, and conservation advocacy organization. The Observatory studies bird and bat populations in the Western Great Lakes Region, with the goal of supporting actions that sustain their long-term conservation.
The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (www.wisconservation.org) provides sustainable funding for Wisconsin’s most imperiled species and public lands, while helping citizens connect with the state’s unique natural places. The foundation’s C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant Program supports projects in Wisconsin that promote the responsible stewardship of natural resources at the local level.
Bird City Wisconsin (birdcitywisconsin.org) publicly recognizes Wisconsin communities whose officials, businesses, and citizens have come together to create healthy bird and human populations. The program is modeled on the Arbor Day Foundation’s successful Tree City USA program.
Dr. Bryan Lenz, Chief Scientist, Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, and Director, Bird City Wisconsin
Phone: (414) 533-5398