(CHICAGO – January 30, 2019) Today, Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) introduced the bipartisan U.S. House bill, the Bird-Safe Buildings Act, with Representatives Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Steve Cohen (D-TN). This legislation establishes guidelines for all future construction and alteration projects on federal buildings, where practicable. Senator Booker (D-NJ) introduced a Senate version in the last session of Congress. Audubon enthusiastically supports this legislation and thanks Congressman Quigley and Congressman Griffith for their commitment to protecting birds.
Every year, millions of migratory birds are funneled through Chicago’s migration corridor that is created by Lake Michigan but many of them collide with our iconic architecture.
“Representative Quigley has been a local leader in the protection of birds and wildlife. The Bird-Safe Buildings Act is a commonsense solution to a big problem,” said Rebeccah Sanders, National Audubon Society Vice President for the Great Lakes. “By making simple adjustments to new federal building projects that would help prevent collisions, we can help mitigate the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of millions of migrating birds every year and also make these buildings more energy efficient, which is money saved for taxpayers. This bill is a win for birds and for people.”
Some bird species of conservation concern are more likely than others to die from window collisions, including the Black-throated Blue Warbler, Canada Warbler, Wood Thrush, and Golden-winged Warbler, which travels from as far as Costa Rica only to meet serious injury or death when it collides with a sleek and nearly transparent skyscraper.
Collisions with human-made structures is a leading cause of bird deaths in the United States. It’s estimated that up to 1 billion birds die each year from building collisions. Generally, the more glass on a building, the greater the danger to birds in flight. Incorporating bird-friendly design can reduce collision deaths by up to 90 percent.
A key guideline in the bird-safe legislation would reduce the amount of plain glass to a maximum of 10 percent of the first 40 feet of a building’s façade, and a maximum of 40 percent above the 40-foot threshold. Using patterned glass instead of plain glass allows birds to see glass surfaces and avoid collision. Smarter lighting practices that reduce light pollution and save energy are also included in the legislation’s guidelines. Many birds migrate at night and can be disoriented by lighting, and best practices include using automatic lights that turn off while not in use and shielded lights, which protect birds flying overhead.
The National Audubon Society works with local governments to guide the implementation of bird-safe building codes. For example, Chicago was the first U.S. city to adopt the Lights Out program, an effort to turn off unessential lighting during peak bird migration seasons. Currently,advocates in Chicago are calling for a city-wide bird-friendly building ordinance. Atlanta Audubon is one of many local chapters leading on both light reduction and making buildings safer for birds.