Will we see more bird-friendly glass in the future?

by Colleen O'Connor Toberman
Small songbirds often don't survive glass collisions.  (Photo by Yankech Gary, a volunteer with FLAP)

Nearly half of American bird species travel through or live in the Mississippi River flyway, including over 250 species in Minnesota alone. In developed areas, such as the Twin Cities' downtowns, large buildings (particularly those with glass) and artificial lighting pose significant dangers to birds making their way through our river corridor.

Urban areas pose dangers

Light from buildings, bridges and other structures can disorient birds. Tall buildings with large reflective or transparent glass surfaces also make it hard for birds to assess where they can safely fly and where they can't. Together, these urban features cause bird strikes that result in injury or death.

A recent study of the U.S. Bank Stadium near the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis found that an estimated 111 bird deaths happen at the stadium each year. The stadium's design includes extensive exterior lighting and glass surfaces.

Science-based guidelines for bird safety

Bird-safe design is critical in riverfront development. Science-based bird-safe design elements include using patterned glass that birds can see more easily, managing lighting design and use, and creating thoughtful landscape plans. Bird-safe buildings can still be beautiful and functional for their human users while protecting migrating species. (To learn more about bird-safe design, check out Audubon Minnesota's Bird-Safe Building Guidelines.)

FMR was happy to see New York City recently require for bird-safe glass in new buildings. This is a common-sense, science-based approach to mitigating a harmful effect of urban development. Will the Twin Cities consider similar rules to protect the birds of the Mississippi River flyway?

Join the River Guardians

If you want to hear about future opportunities to advocate for bird-safe design in riverfront developments, become a River Guardian. You'll receive emails from us when opportunities to advocate for riverfront development and other river-related issues arise, plus invitations to educational happy hours.

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