Proposed Legislation Could Prevent Millions of Bird Deaths

Painted Bunting, one of the bird species of national conservation concern that fall victim to collisions with buildings. Photo by Steve Byland/Shutterstock.

(Washington, D.C., May 13, 2015) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), one of the nation’s leading bird conservation organizations, applauds U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) and Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA-09) for introducing the Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act (HR 2280).

The bill is designed to prevent the deaths of millions of birds by calling for each public building constructed, acquired, or significantly altered by the General Services Administration (GSA) to incorporate, to the maximum extent possible, bird-safe building materials and design features. Many buildings constructed by GSA are already, in fact, bird-friendly. The legislation would require GSA to take similar actions on existing buildings, where practicable.

“Migratory bird season in Chicago reminds us that birds are not only beautiful animals telling us that warmer weather is on its way; but they help generate billions of dollars annually to the U.S. economy through wildlife watching activities,” said Rep. Quigley. “However, collisions with glass buildings claim hundreds of millions of bird lives each year in the U.S. The Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act, a cost neutral bill, would help prevent these deaths by including bird-safe building materials and design features across federal buildings.”

“This bill is a balanced approach, applying strictly to federal government buildings. It is simple, cost neutral legislation that will protect millions of birds,” said Rep. Griffith. “I am proud to support this reasonable and practical step to curb unnecessary harm to some of our nation’s wild animals.”

“Building collisions are certainly among the greatest man-made killers of birds. Three hundred million to one billion birds or more die each year from collisions with glass on buildings—from skyscrapers to homes. While this legislation is limited to federal buildings, it’s a very good start that could lead to more widespread applications of bird-friendly designs elsewhere,” said Dr. Christine Sheppard, ABC Bird Collisions Campaign Manager.

In the most comprehensive study of its kind, “Bird–building Collisions in the United States: Estimates of Annual Mortality and Species Vulnerability” published in January 2014, the species most commonly reported as building kills (collectively representing 35 percent of all records) were White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Ovenbird, and Song Sparrow. However, the study found that some species are disproportionately vulnerable to building collisions. Several of these are birds of national conservation concern and fall victim primarily to certain building types. Those species include:

Sheppard says that concerns about the impacts of building on birds have been increasing across the U.S. and more city and county governments are beginning to address the issue.

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