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Bird-Safe Skies Depend on Smart Designs

If you look at the types of buildings most architects are currently designing, they usually have one thing in common: glass.

Architects have fallen in love with the look of large glass windows and green spaces. but the combination of those two seemingly beautiful elements is deadly to birds.

Every year, all across the world, millions of birds die as a result of hitting the window of a building while flying. This alarming trend is only expected to keep growing as architects continue to opt for the look of a clear glass window within a green space with trees and grass unless someone looks to change or enforce a new paradigm.

Fortunately, architect and bird lover Guy Maxwell is trying to introduce bird-friendly windows and construction into New York City buildings, according to NPR’s great two-part series on birds and buildings. Maxwell has said he is looking for different types of glass and building strategies to help minimize the number of deaths.

One of the most interesting bird-friendly designs is Ornilux Mikado glass. Mikado, which is the German term for the child’s game pick-up sticks because that’s what it resembles, uses UV rays to cause a reflection that birds can see and try to avoid.

According to the BBC, the owner was inspired by the Orb weaver spider that uses the same method to keep birds from flying into and destroying its web.

“Its web reflects UV light protecting it from being destroyed by birds as they can see it and do not fly through. The idea of developing a coating for glass… inspired by nature was born on the same evening.”

Maxwell is currently looking into this type of glass because of how effective it seems.

Architects tend to opt for the cleanest look possible without any lines or visible imperfections, which makes this Ornilux glass a great option. From the outside to the human eye, it looks like any regular clear or reflective glass. It’s only when you get up close from the inside that you can see tiny veins of UV within the window from a certain angle.

Still, the cost of Ornilux glass is significantly more than regular glass, so the obstacles remain high in getting bird-friendly materials into the mass market.

For more information, I recommend checking out this cool infographic from NPR and the related stories featured on Morning Edition.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.