Applying film deters birds from fatal strikes with glass

Smith College finds solution to prevent fatal crashes into glass

  • Submitted pictures of other film they tried. —carol Lollis

  • These photos show examples of other products reviewed by Smith College before it decided to use SOLYX Bird Safety film SX-BSFV-Vertical Pattern on the walkway connecting McConnell and Sabin-Reid to prevent bird crashes. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

  • A film covers the glass on the bridge between McConnell Hall and Sabin Reed Hall at Smith College in Northampton to prevent birds from crashing into the glass. carol Lollis

  • Margaret Lamb, the administrative director of the Clark Science Center, stands next to windows covered in a film that covers the glass on the bridge between McConnell Hall and Sabin Reed Hall at Smith College that prevents the birds from flying into the glass. —carol Lollis

  • A film that covers the glass on the bridge between McConnell Hall and Sabin Reed Hall at Smith College that prevents the birds from flying into the glass. —carol Lollis

  • A film that covers the glass on the bridge between McConnell Hall and Sabin Reed Hall at Smith College that prevents the birds from flying into the glass. —carol Lollis

  • Margaret Lamb, the administrative director of the Clark Science Center, stands next to windows covered in a film that covers the glass on the bridge between McConnell Hall and Sabin Reed Hall at Smith College that prevents the birds from flying into the glass. —carol Lollis

  • Sheena See of Florence two years ago found these cedar waxwings dead on the Smith College campus after they crashed into glass. As a result, See, an alumna, worked with administrators, faculty and students at Smith to come up with the solution of applying a special film to the exterior of the glass where birds often crashed. COURTESY SHEENA SEE

For the Gazette
Published: 6/8/2016 11:00:28 AM

NORTHAMPTON — When Sheena See discovered eight cedar waxwings dead on the pavement below the large glass entrance of the indoor track and tennis building on the Smith College campus two years ago, she was appalled and decided that it was time to take action.

That action led to a collective push by See and members of the Smith community to prevent birds from crashing into windows. As a result, the college installed bird safety film on large glass windows in two locations on campus where bird strikes were common. The success rate since the film was installed last summer has been 100 percent.

Birds crashing into windows is a common problem that most often ends in death.

This typically occurs because the glass creates a reflection of the sky and landscape presenting an illusion of a clear flight path.

Birds may also be drawn to indoor vegetation on the other side of the glass.

According to Randy Dettmers, migration bird biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Hadley, there is no particular species of bird that is more prone to crashing into glass windows. Instead, the problem is related to habitats and migration patterns.

“Here in a campus or suburban setting, there would likely be more common birds like the cedar waxwings, catbirds, sparrows, warblers, even hummingbirds. Basically any bird that would use the habitat in the area,” Dettmers said.

Nocturnal migrating birds may also be lured into the glass by lights.

Dettmers noted that smaller hawk species such as the sharp-shinned hawk may sometimes crash into glass while hunting other birds.

However, glass does not present a substantial problem for most of the larger, high-soaring birds. For them, the danger lies in flying into large wind turbines.

Dettmers said an estimated 350 million to 1 billion birds are killed in the United States every year as a result of striking object.

‘Bird-death bridge’

At Smith, there was one notorious spot so well known for its lethal effect on birds that it was called “bird-death bridge.” This was the walkway between Sabin-Reid and McConnell Hall that sports two stories of plate glass.

“They tried putting up those black silhouette decals of hawks but they don’t do any good at all,” See said.

See, a 1973 Smith alumna and artist who lives in Florence, said she started talking with the buildings and grounds staff and  eventually met with Margaret Lamb, the administrative director of Clark Science Center, in July 2014.

“She had been aware of the problem, and she is the one who really got the ball rolling,” See said, noting that Lamb helped pull together key players from other parts of campus.

Eventually Gary Hartwell, the project manager for facilities management at Smith, began researching a variety of products that might solve the problem.

“We were looking for maximum visibility, something the birds could easily see that didn’t disrupt our view through the glass,” Hartwell said.

While Hartwell was reviewing products, See thought it might be a good idea to get students involved.

“She got in touch with me in 2014, expressed her concern, and pitched a project to my class,” said David Smith, a professor of biological sciences and director of the Environmental Science and Policy Program. “Some of my students started looking at the issue and then did a capstone project assessing the buildings on campus to see which ones might pose a problem.”

Smith said his students looked at a number of factors like square footage of glass, light, vegetation and came up with a system to rank the buildings.

In the project, entitled “Saving Two Birds with One Decal: Mitigating Bird-Window Collisions on Smith Campus,” students created a GIS map of every building and labeled them on a scale from most to least dangerous to birds.

The walkway connecting McConnell and Sabin-Reid, and the indoor track and tennis facility were deemed the most deadly.

Bird safety film

After reviewing several products, in the summer of 2015, Hartwell hired a contractor to install SOLYX Bird Safety film SX-BSFV–Vertical Pattern on the walkway.

This deterrent is made of durable, clear, scratch-resistant 4mil polyester film with a silicone liner. Thin lines run vertically down the film spaced at three inches apart.

The film is applied to the exterior of the glass and is expected to last seven years.

At $23 a square foot, covering the glass on the walkway cost $35,000, but the results were worth the price tag.

“Since the film went up, there have been no strikes,” Hartwell said. “From the very first day it went up it was so successful, that we then decided to put it up at the entrance to the track facility and we got the same result, no strikes at all.”

The film works because the birds can detect the thin lines on the film and determine that the spaces in between the lines are too close to fly through. The rule of thumb is to space vertical lines no further than four inches apart and horizontal lines no more than two inches apart.

“For us it is almost invisible to the naked eye, but the design is very effective,” Lamb said. “This was a successful collaborative effort with facilities management, staff in the science center, students, and one alum who had long wanted to do something about this problem.”




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