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July 21, 2017

Birds versus buildings

About one billion birds are killed every year when they unwittingly fly into human-made objects such as buildings with reflective windows. Such collisions are the largest unintended human cause of bird deaths worldwide — and they are a serious concern for conservationists.

A new paper published in June in the journal Biological Conservation finds that, as one might suspect, smaller buildings cause fewer bird deaths than do bigger buildings. But the research team of about 60 — including three co-authors with the University of Washington — also found that larger buildings in rural areas pose a greater threat to birds than if those same-sized buildings were located in an urban area.

Lead author of the paper is Stephen B. Hager, professor of biology at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Co-author Karen Dyson, an urban design and planning doctoral candidate in the UW College of Built Environments helped collect bird-collision data and assisted in editing the paper, along with UW alumni Anqi Chen and Carolyn Foster.

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