Ottawa boy's invisible invention warns birds about deadly windows
January 21, 2009
Charlie Sobcov's window decals are clear and transparent to humans, but not to birds. (Emily Chung/CBC)
Eighth grader Charlie Sobcov wants to stop birds from dying in collisions with windows, but he doesn't want to ruin anybody's view.
For his latest school science fair project he has invented painted, plastic decals that can be placed — discreetly — right in the middle of a window pane.
"This paint is a colour that birds can see but humans can't," he said Wednesday on CBC Radio's All in a Day. "It's like putting a big stop sign in the middle of the window."
The colour is ultraviolet, beyond the range of colours visible to humans. That means the "stop sign" lets birds know the window is solid, but is nearly invisible to humans.
Similar flying falcon-shaped decals already exist on the windows of some buildings, but unlike Sobcov's, they are black and can obstruct part of the window.
Sobcov, who studies at the Turnbull School, a private school in Ottawa, said he first fell in love with birds while on a trip with his parents to Costa Rica four years ago. He learned that bird populations were decreasing around the world, and that many scientists were blaming global warming.
He later read that about 500 million birds a year in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada were dying as a result of crashing into windows. Many deadly bird collision are with the windows of skyscrapers along their migratory paths.
Sobcov resolved to help save the lives of some of those birds.