How to Save Billions of Birds from Window Deaths

Decades of research and a new book by Professor Daniel Klem provide solutions for this critical conservation issue.

By: Kristine Yahna Todaro  Thursday, September 23, 2021 03:14 PM

Each day, in the U.S. alone, approximately one million birds die from collisions with glass. And this killer is indiscriminate—taking the strong as well as the weak, creating environmental devastation.

Daniel Klem Jr., Sarkis Acopian Professor of Ornithology and director of the Acopian Center for Ornithology at Muhlenberg College, has been studying, writing and teaching about this issue for nearly half a century and is considered by many in the field to be the world's leading expert on the topic. His new book, Solid Air | Invisible Killer: Saving Billions of Birds from Windows, highlights his research as well as the challenges and the solutions that people can use to save birds from sheet glass.

Fall bird migration is happening now and October 9 is World Migratory Bird Day. Lights Out and similar programs are very important during this time, especially in urban areas, where an individual building can kill and injure hundreds of birds. 

However, Klem’s research shows it is actually the year-round collisions at residential and low-rise commercial buildings that account for the greatest number of bird/glass deaths annually. 

What Can We Do?

  • Make glass visible to birds using stickers, strings or film in a 2”x4” pattern. Other DIY and affordable options for homeowners and renters include closing blinds and keeping screens on windows year round. Detailed instructions can be found here.
  • For new construction or replacement windows, current options include acid etched and fritted glass. Select manufacturers currently have and others are developing new solutions using ultraviolet (UV) spectrum light since it is visible to birds but invisible to us. A UV film to retrofit windows is over 90% effective in field tests and soon to be available commercially. Walker Glass in Canada and Guardian Glass in the U.S. recently released a UV glass for new construction.
  • Advocate! While the actions of individuals make a difference, larger-scale efforts are needed to save birds from this fate. Klem says we can achieve this by working together to influence city, state and federal governments to require bird-protective legislation and building requirements. 

Unlike the complexities of other environmental challenges, such as climate change, this important issue can be solved right now, says Klem. Homeowners, renters, architects, builders, developers, legislators, legal professionals and urban planners alike can use this information as a blueprint to create a more bird-friendly world.