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A building was bird-proofed after complaints that birds were dying by flying into windows on campus’ glassy buildings.

Western University applied a bird-deterrent product to a third wall of windows on the Western Interdisciplinary Research Building. Western had previously treated two sides of the WIRB with bird friendly windows when it opened in 2018.

The deterrent is a film covered in dots applied over the glass windows. Its purpose is to signal to incoming birds that the window is a barrier, rather than an extension of the open air.

Brendon Samuels is a PhD student in biology who has been investigating the science behind why birds are striking windows and has been monitoring collisions at several buildings on campus.

Samuels notes the treatment has already helped to significantly decrease the amount of bird strikes.

Despite the benefits of treating windows on campus buildings, the cost is sizable compared to the group requesting it, and the money Western could likely offer.

“As we look into new buildings we may be able to incorporate it,” said Elizabeth Krische, vice president of Facilities Management at Western. “The challenge is that it is very expensive.”

Purchasing and installing the bird deterrent for the WIRB cost Western $90,000, which was drawn from left over funds in the building’s construction budget.

But Mark Workentin, a chemistry professor at Western, believes the university could be doing more to help.

“Time for @westernuFM to put #featherfriendly on this building. Look at all the blue dots. Instead of finding funds for it in the remains of projects built, this should be integrated into the planning cost of every new building,” he wrote.

The tweet was in response to Samuel, who shared a picture of a rare bird he found on campus.

 

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Samuels explained the blue dots on the map represent areas where injured or dead birds have been found that have collided with a window. He keeps a map of the entire campus, which monitors 20 buildings and has documented 220 bird strikes since April 1.

“This beautiful Western Tanager, a species not often seen on campus, was killed by a window at the IGAB. The end of her long migratory journey, like others this year before her, is marked with a single blue point on the map,” he wrote.

He corrected himself in a subsequent tweet explaining although that the bird found in the photo was Scarlet Tanager, it is still a rare species to spot on campus.

Throughout his research, he has discovered some of the birds striking windows on campus are considered at-risk species in Ontario.

Barn swallows, chimney swifts and Canada warblers are amongst some of the bird species at risk Samuels has found injured or dead in his daily monitoring.

According to Samuels, this is a bigger problem than his research can represent.

“Based on other research, I would say its reasonable we detect 20 per cent of the collisions at most,” he said.

As a result, his efforts are extending beyond his research with an initiative to rescue injured birds on campus.

Samuels encouraged anyone who finds an injured or dead bird near a campus building to send a location with photos to birdsafeuwo@gmail.com.

He added that the problem is not exclusive to Western and there are many other buildings in London birds have flown into.

In January, London’s Planning Committee proposed changes to a bylaw addressing light pollution, an aggravating factor in the bird deaths.

The amendments would require construction projects to birds can identify the windows as barriers. The bylaw is still in its planning stages for now.

So, when it comes to future construction projects, all of Western’s buildings may be bird-proofed. 

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