VCU Bird-Window Collision Study

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Primary Author

Amelia Rafle

Faculty Mentor

Lesley Bulluck

Abstract

It is estimated that bird-window collisions cause up to 988 million bird deaths annually in the United States alone. Previous studies show that mid-rise buildings with high window coverage and surrounding vegetation, like many buildings found on college campuses, can be the most dangerous for birds. Over the course of three months (Aug17-Nov23, 2020) we surveyed 13 facades across 7 buildings on Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park campus, an urban university adjacent to a known bird migration hotspot, the James River. The goal of the survey was to determine which buildings pose the largest threat to local birds, and to propose solutions to university administrators in order to make these buildings safer. We recorded a total of 41 bird carcasses belonging to 19 species. Approximately 38% of the birds found were Neotropical migrants, including warblers, sparrows, and thrushes. Carcasses were discovered every week of the survey, with the highest numbers during peak fall migration. Carcasses were also discovered at every building, with ~24% at a single building – the courtyard of the life sciences building. The highest proportion of carcasses discovered per facade (26%) occurred at the Gladding Residence Center, a newly constructed dorm. Based on these results, we recommend cost-effective adjustments be made to windows on all surveyed buildings that will make windows more visible to birds and mitigate any further danger.

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