Glass Collisions

How to Advocate for Retrofits

Vassar Bridge Science Building, N.Y. ©Christine Sheppard
Tips for Addressing Buildings That Harm Birds in Your Community

Adding retrofits to address collisions at your home or another building where you have authority is fairly straightforward: Figure out the problem windows, choose the best solution for you, install it, and save birds. The process, however, is not nearly as simple if you would like to see retrofits done on a building that is not yours because you will have to convince someone else to spend money to retrofit bird-killing windows.

The first thing to remember is that, unless local or regional legislation prohibits it (not yet true anywhere), it is not illegal to have a building that kills birds, so no one has to retrofit windows. It is crucial that your request for action be friendly. If possible, you should include an offer to help. A forceful demand that someone figure out the entire issue themselves is unlikely to succeed.

Also, keep in mind that most people have no idea of the magnitude of glass collisions as a conservation issue. Even those who do may not be aware that their own building is killing birds, or that there are solutions. So, be careful to not take an accusatory or threatening tone in any conversation. You will likely be educating people on the entire collisions issue, and it is perfectly reasonable for them to have been completely unaware of the problem, even at their own building.


How to Keep Birds from Hitting Your Windows

Are birds colliding with your home or building? Use our guide to find solutions and protect birds!


Next, assess your audience so that you can craft the best approach. Different building owners/operators will have different motivations to act. If you are lucky, you will generate immediate interest in trying to solve the problem simply because it is the right thing to do, but that may not be enough once costs and aesthetics enter the conversation.

For each situation, there are many different motivations beyond saving birds that can be built into your approach. If the problem building is a business, for example, consider asking how the collisions problem might influence the business's image with customers or affect employee morale. If the building is at a school or university, suggest that resolving this issue could be a way for students to learn about conservation biology, bird-friendly design, organizing, and effecting real-world change. Many schools have sustainability policies and even sustainability departments. Pointing out that sustainable buildings don't kill birds is a good way to put the issue in context. If birds are dying at a government building, think about what citizens expect from their leaders and what type of community they want to live in (and consider adopting a bird-friendly building ordinance). For landlords, consider the desirability of living in an environmentally friendly building.


Why Birds Hit Glass

Birds, unlike humans, are unable to understand or learn the concept of glass as an invisible barrier that can also be a mirror. Birds take what they see literally – and glass can appear to be habitat they can fly into, whether the habitat is reflected, or seen through a pane of glass.

Photo of hummingbird


In some instances, a petition may be effective, demonstrating that a large number of people would like to see a collision problem addressed. If you go this route, create a petition that makes a friendly request for action because you do not want to get anyone who signs it into trouble with the building owners (employers, landlords, etc.). In general, though, a petition should not be the first way the problem is broached.

It is often very helpful to document the collision problem. We recommend walking the perimeter of the building in the morning (8:00-10:00 a.m.), particularly during spring and fall migration, to look for dead and injured birds. Take photos of the dead birds, mark the location on the building where you found them, and, if you can, create a list of the species and numbers you find each day. This will make it impossible to deny that there is an issue. The photos themselves often spur people to action because the aftermath of collisions disturbs most people. If you find live, injured, or stunned birds, carefully place them in a paper bag and take them to a certified wildlife rehabilitator. Building maintenance staff are often well aware if there is a collisions problem and may be able to direct you to “hot spots.”

You should be prepared to show the building owner some of the potential solutions they might use, so that they do not have to find something on their own. For this, we recommend ABC's Products and Solutions Database.


Take Action for Birds

ABC is working hard to make federal buildings bird friendly. Join us today and ask Congress to pass the Bird-Safe Buildings Act!


If you are successful and retrofits are installed, make sure that you offer to help the building owner/manager find a way to let people know that they took action. If they are not interested, respect that. If they are, consider things like signs, posters, window clings, posting a story on the owner's website, local media stories, a flyer for building occupants, etc.

If you try to convince the building owner to install retrofits but are unsuccessful, do not get angry and burn any bridges. Patience often pays off. Instead of venting to the owner, maintain the good relationship that you have formed, but continue to document the problem and talk to other concerned people, letting them know that you share their concerns. Also, if appropriate, mention the issue to others who might have influence, if you can identify them. You may end up bringing people around to the realization that they need to act, but this can take time. Turnover in ownership or management that brings a new face may also bring a new attitude, perhaps one more receptive to your concerns, so be patient.

Finally, thank you for being willing to tackle this issue!


Visit our photo gallery to see how a variety of materials and techniques can be used to make buildings safe for birds and great for people.

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Bird Collisions on ABC's Blog

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