Wells Ecology Students Contribute to National Bird Conservation Study

November 21, 2017
Professor Jackie Schnurr’s class studied rates and conditions of bird-window collisions on campus.
image of stratton hall and campus

In 2014, Professor of Biology and Environmental Science Jackie Schnurr and the students in her ecology course participated in a large-scale research project investigating buildings and bird-window collisions. The research, led by Professors Stephen Hager of Augustana College and Bradley Cosentino of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, involved 300 buildings on 40 different campuses in North America. Researchers tracked factors such as building size, place in the landscape, number of windows, surrounding structures, and more.

Their research was collected and published in the resulting paper “Continent-wide analysis of how urbanization affects bird-window collision mortality in North America” for the journal Biological Conservation. It has also recently been written up by The Wildlife Society, Anthropocene, and the National Audubon Society.

The information released by the researchers notes:

“Numerous bird species are affected by bird-building collisions, including species important in conservation that are declining through their ranges...Although building size and local environmental features are important drivers of bird-window collisions, we do not understand how collision mortality is affected by urbanization at larger spatial scales beyond just one building and the habitat structure right around it. We know that bird community structure (e.g., numbers and types of birds) and bird behavior (e.g., habitat selection and learning) are influenced by regional-scale urbanization, which could in turn drive risk of bird mortality resulting from window collisions…

“What are the conservation implications of all this? The results of this research allow for a better appreciation for why up to 1 billion birds die annually throughout North America after hitting windows in buildings. The regional-scale beacon effect hypothesized by the researchers in rural landscapes suggests the potential benefit of implementing lights out programs in cities and towns of all sizes, not just in large cities characterized by high-intensity urbanization. At local scales, collision mortality can be reduced or eliminated by constructing buildings with a small amount of sheet glass, and retrofitting windows in existing buildings with frit patterns on glass surfaces, which may make windows visible to birds.”

The researchers also collected recommendations for further study of other types of sites and structures, at different times of the year, and specific conditions affecting vulnerable bird species.

We appreciate the work of Professor Schnurr and our students in this important conservation work!

Read more about this project (a note from our web editor: many of these links feature images of dead birds):

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