Window Nets Save Birds

About a month ago, NPR ran a pair of stories on the danger large windows pose to biodiversity.  Specifically, glass in buildings is responsible for the death of anywhere between 100 million and a billion birds in North America each year.  Find that two-part story here and here.

I was puzzled the first time I saw the wonderful, four-story windows on the atrium of the Math and Science Center at Emory University draped in a rather drab, black net.  I was even more puzzled by the fact hat some days the net would be there while others there was no sign of it.

I eventually I took a conservation biology class taught by the university’s Environmental Officer, a very dedicated biologist, who explained why the net, which was retractable, was put in place and frequently deployed.  He explained that glass easily confuses birds, causing them to fly into it and die.  They can’t distinguish it from the sky.  That professor would take walks around the building to get a count of the birds killed when the net was retracted and then use that information to advocated unrolling the nets.  Some mornings, he would bring a victim to class and pass it around.  I can’t say I relished that, and I wish he would have waited until the end of class for those show-and-tell exercises so I wouldn’t have had to wait for the entire hour before I ran to the bathroom to wash my hands.

While I was studying at the University of Georgia School of Law, I some times heard stories about birds flying into the wonderful wall of windows in that school’s library.  Like the windows of Emory’s Math and Science Center, the Law Library looks out onto a nice, little wooded patch.  It’s always shady, and the birds like it.  I imagine those windows kill a lot of birds.  Of course, every time I heard a story about a bird hitting the glass, I would offer the story above.  After all, I just had to share my experience and show off my knowledge, but I don’t think any one cared.  At least, no one ever cared enough to advocate for a window net.  Maybe I should have made that a project while I was a student there.

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