Sky-High Design: How To Make A Bird-Friendly Building

Shiny glass buildings are a hallmark of modern architecture, but for birds, that shimmer can be deadly. Every year, an estimated 100 million to 1 billion birds die by flying into glass windows. By studying how birds interact with buildings, architects and ornithologists are trying to create special features designed to keep birds alive.

Below, click around to see architectural features that can make buildings safer for birds — or more deadly.

Good: Contoured Surfaces

Photo: afagen/via Flickr

Balconies, overhangs, recessed windows and other variations in a building's facade help birds determine whether they're looking at a solid object.

Good: Safer Glass

Photo: AP

When a bird collides with a building, glass is nearly always to blame. Birds don't register clear or reflective glass panes as barriers in their way. Special kinds of glass address this problem by reflecting patterns in the UV light spectrum that are visible to birds. Architects can also cover exterior glass with grilles or screens, which reduce the amount of exposed glass while still allowing building occupants to see out.

Good: Decoys

Photo: maetang/via Flickr

Models of predatory birds like owls or hawks are often placed on buildings, particularly homes, to scare birds away. They may not always match a building's aesthetic, but they're effective.

Good: Smarter Lighting

Photo: Dariusz Zdziebkowski/American Bird Conservancy

Lights-out programs and street lights with shades that direct light downward help to reduce the amount of light that spills into the night sky. As a result, birds are less likely to be distracted and interrupted during their nocturnal migrations.

Bad: Reflective Surfaces

Photo: Christine Sheppard/American Bird Conservancy

Buildings with mirrored or reflective surfaces are especially dangerous to birds. Birds have a hard time distinguishing between real and reflected obstacles, so they can very easily fly right into a shiny skyscraper.

Bad: Planted Atriums

Photo: M.V. Jantzen/via Flickr

Placing attractive, bird-friendly habitats, like trees and other plants, inside glass enclosures can be deadly for birds, who might try to fly directly through the glass.

Bad: City Lights

Photo: Getty Images

Birds are easily distracted by and drawn to light. Bright city lights can draw migrating birds into urban areas, where they are more likely to crash into buildings or each other.

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