December 20, 2012
Friends of the Earth Malaysia (FOEM) known as Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), an environmental organization based in Penang, Malaysia wishes to draw your attention to the second greatest threat to wild birds. Thousands of migrating birds are killed each year from collisions with windows in the soaring glass towers of New York City, Toronto, Manhattan, and even windows of homes situated along the migratory routes. These conditions warrant concern from everyone.
The use of clear or reflective panes of glass or plastic that are used in the windows of human dwellings and other buildings and as noise barriers along roadways are passive invisible killers of wild birds worldwide. Buildings that have glass facades disorient the birds by reflecting the surrounding trees. Perceiving the reflection as habitat, birds zoom at it full throttle, with no knowledge of the danger. The result is fatal or injurious collisions when the birds attempt to reach illusory habitats or sky reflected in the glass surface. Glass is an indiscriminate killer to bird species.
The dead and dying birds of glass accidents are most often hidden from view in vegetation surrounding human dwellings. They are either killed outright, injured and struggling to recover, or quickly taken by predators or scavengers. Birds that are killed striking glass, from a few to hundreds at any one site, usually go unnoticed or are ignored.
Glass casualties have been recorded all over the world from windowpanes of all sizes, in residential homes, and single or multi-story buildings. Given the invisible nature of the hazard, fatal collisions are predicted to occur whenever birds and glass coexist. The resulting unintended mortality is particularly devastating, because all free flying species from all over the world are vulnerable - the common as well as the rare, threatened and endangered.
Ornithologist Daniel Klem of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania noted that collision victims succumb from head trauma that results in brain swelling, intracranial pressure, cranial herniation, and breaking of the blood-brain barrier, not from the often-assumed �broken neck�.
Klem published estimates of the annual toll exacted on birds in the U.S. alone range from 100 million to 1 billion based on the assumption that one bird is killed per building per year.
The 57 year-old ornithologist states, "Glass is one of the world's great bird killers," a killer that is rivalled only by habitat destruction, and perhaps cats.
Approximately 225 species (25%) of birds in the United States and Canada have been documented striking windows. The species not recorded as window-kills are those that typically do not have habitats near human dwellings. The sex, age, or resident status of a bird in any locale has little influence on their vulnerability to windows. There is no seasons, times of day, and almost no weather conditions during which these birds elude glass.
The window hazard is likely to increase for resident and migrant birds, as increased undisturbed habitat is modified by human development and the construction of new buildings contain large expanses of glass. In addition, commercial growth stimulated by economic interests show the return of human population migrating towards rural areas, which results in increased land development and an increased threat for birds.
Bird casualties at residences and well-known commercial sites are substantial, foreseeable, and avoidable, and it is only right that birds merit protection from sheet glass and plastic at these locations.
FOEM/SAM calls for dedicated educational efforts and additional research to inform and convince more of the avian conservation community, building industry professionals, and the public that sheet glass and plastic has a devastating effect on bird populations. These enormous sources of mortality must be addressed in a much more active and effective way.
The design and construction of so-called �green buildings� should not be considered �green� if birds are dying by flying into its windows. No matter how many recyclable materials, energy conserving features, or erosion controls a building possesses, every attempt should be made to encourage and convince architects and building professionals to incorporate bird safe glass and bird-safe architectural and landscape designs into the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) best practices and certification.
A concerted effort in education programs is needed to inform the public, the government, non-profit conservation community, builders, glass manufacturers, architects, developers, and landscape planners that, apart from habitat destruction, the lethal toll attributable to sheet glass is equal to, or possibly even greater than, any other human-related avian mortality factor.
We appeal to you to write to your town councils, ornithologists, avian conservationists, builders, architects, and property owners to work together in the effort to protect our birds from the unintended and unwanted invisible window hazards created by humans.
Kindly email a copy of your appeal letter to FOEM/SAM at email@example.com
*Mr. S M Mohd Idris
Friends of the Earth
Malaysia(FOEM)/Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)