Queen’s University is taking steps protect local and migratory birds from a largely invisible threat – collisions with glass, mistaken for open air.
According to Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada more than 25 million birds die every year as the result of window collisions across the country.
The Office of Sustainability at Queen’s University is responding by putting a dotted film in place over the windows at select locations, to deter birds from trying to pass through.
“We’re very optimistic that we will observe a significant decline in the number of birds injured or killed,” said Maleeka Thaker, a masters student studying environmental science.
Using funding from the Society of Conservation Biology, Thaker conducted a study to determine which campus buildings pose the greatest risk for bird collisions. She recruited a team of volunteers to help her methodically inspect campus locations each day for evidence of bird collisions.
As a result of her research, the Office of Sustainability has chosen the Biosciences Complex as the site of the first installation of the deterrent film. In late August, Physical Plant Services placed the film on the windows of a stairwell facing Barrie Street. Humphrey-Craine Hall will receive the next installation of film in the coming months.
How the film deters birds
The deterrent film prevents collisions by helping birds recognize the hard glass surfaces. It’s a decal applied to windows, with a small dot pattern. Humans typically can’t see the dots from 15 feet away or more. It does not affect visibility through the windows for people inside.
Thaker said she started studying collisions because she feels birds are an important part of the local environment. “I think we have a responsibility to limit the harm we do to them,” she said. “When I started my research as an undergraduate, I didn’t know if I’d be able to use it to make concrete changes, so it’s very exciting to see the film installation come to life.”
Thaker will now evaluate the film’s effectiveness by comparing new data against evidence from previous inspections.
“There are many faculty, staff, and fellow students at Queen’s who worked together to make this development possible.”
The installation of the film was funded by the Sustainability Working Group, which is co-chaired by Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) Donna Janiec and Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) Teri Shearer.
The Sustainability Working Group provides strategic direction and recommendations for the evaluation, planning, development, communication and implementation of initiatives aligned with the university’s sustainability goals and the carbon reductions targeted by the Queen’s University Climate Action Plan.
“We are aiming to make Queen’s as sustainable as possible, and part of that work is reducing our impact on local wildlife populations,” said Nathan Splinter, Manager, Energy and Sustainability.
“With this film in place, we expect to significantly reduce the number of birds that die from flying into windows of campus buildings. The project is starting off with film on the windows of one building,” he said, “but we see great potential for expansion.”