Video of Bald Eagle Crashing Into Football Stadium Window Highlights Need for Bird Friendly Building Designs

Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210,


(Washington, D.C. , September 16, 2011) A YouTube video that shows the Auburn University mascot – a live Bald Eagle called Spirit – crashing into the window of a luxury box seat during the pregame show this past weekend illustrates the dangers that millions of birds face every day, but especially during the current fall migration period, according to American Bird Conservancy, the nation’s leading bird conservation organization.

“It was very fortunate that the eagle was not killed or seriously injured. Often times, such collisions either kill immediately, stun the bird leaving it defenseless on the ground for a predator, or allow it to fly away only to later die from internal injuries. So many people take the position that since they’ve never actually seen a bird hit a window or found a dead carcass outside their windows, that it doesn’t really happen.  Those ‘show me’ people should now be believers,” said ABC President George Fenwick.

ABC has learned that the Auburn Bald Eagle, which has been flown at Auburn football games for 12 years without incident, appears to have suffered no injuries from the mishap. Staff at the Southeastern Raptor Center have performed a battery of tests on the bird that all suggest no signs of ill effects.  The bird appears to be flying normally and eating as it should. Additional videos of the incident show that, at the last second, the eagle appears to have put its claws forward, preventing a head-on collision with the windows.

Studies suggest that up to one billion birds die each year in collisions with glass windows on homes and commercial buildings. Birds are unable to recognize glass on windows as a barrier and often try to fly to reflected sky or habitat or through to habitat visible on the other side of a building with fatal consequences. Artificial light can exacerbate the problem at night or during bad weather, particularly during migration times.

“The fall migration season is especially dangerous for birds as they must travel thousands of miles to get to winter habitat while facing a gauntlet of natural and manmade mortality threats on the way,” Fenwick said.

Toronto, Canada and Highland Park, Illinois are two cities that have implemented bird friendly construction provisions into their building codes.  San Francisco, California is nearing a final vote on bird friendly provisions as well. In July, the San Francisco Planning Commission voted 5 to 1 in favor of “Standards for Bird Safe Buildings”, which included sections on safer windows, night lighting, and the construction of wind turbines in the urban environment. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to consider the proposal at an upcoming meeting.

Reductions in the number of bird strikes with new buildings can be achieved with simple and cost-effective means. For example, fritting – the placement of ceramic lines or dots on glass – is often already used to reduce air conditioning costs by lowering heat gain in window.  If fritting is applied in particular patterns, it increases the visibility of the window to birds and reduces the likelihood of impacts with little effect on the transparency of the glass to humans looking out, so it does not affect views or light passing through the window for people.

Bird friendly guidelines also reduce unnecessary interior and exterior lighting during the bird migratory seasons, reducing risks to birds.

Bird-safe measures often have other benefits for building owners and operators. For example, fritting reduces heat gain through windows and decreases cooling costs. Turning off unnecessary lights can save owners and operators thousands of dollars a year while greatly reducing risks to birds.

While San Francisco is looking at this issue on a local level, Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL) has introduced national legislation that calls for each public building constructed, acquired, or altered by the General Services Administration (GSA) to incorporate, to the maximum extent possible, bird-safe building materials and design features. The legislation would require GSA to take similar actions on existing buildings, where practicable.  The bill has been designated cost-neutral by the Office of Management Budget, meaning that it would not impose additional costs on the government during these times of necessary fiscal cutbacks.