York University takes measures to prevent birds from flying into windows and dying

Window treatment

The catastrophically high number of birds killed every year when they smash into glass windows is one of the main reasons why Canada and the United States have lost almost three billion birds since 1970, according to Faculty of Science biology Professor Bridget Stutchbury.

York University will be installing a bird-friendly, dot-patterned window treatment at several key sites on the Keele Campus to make the windows more visible to migrating birds and reduce bird deaths. The Bethune walkway has already had the window treatment installed.

The Bethune walkway on the Keele Campus with the bird-friendly window treatment installed

Also on the list to receive the window treatments are the Pond Road Residence, the southeast green roof in the Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence, the Seymour Schulich Building courtyard, the Life Sciences Building and the Founders College Residence.

York is one of the first universities in Ontario and among the first in Canada to install a bird safety film to the windows of key older buildings known for a higher number of bird deaths. The product has been shown to reduce bird mortality by 80 per cent.

Bridget Stuchbury looks at a small bird. She is standing in the middle of a forest.
Bridget Stutchbury

Stutchbury, an expert on bird extinction and migratory songbird declines, leads York’s sustainability efforts to prevent bird deaths, along with her master’s student Lisa Horn.

An internationally recognized expert on the ecology, behaviour and conservation of birds, Stutchbury is best known for her 2009 study of the migratory behaviour of birds, in which tiny tracking devices were placed in miniature backpacks on birds’ backs and then retrieved a year after migration. She has written or co-written more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, including “A neonicotinoid insecticide reduces fueling and delays migration in songbirds,” published last month in Science.

Across Canada, about 25 million birds are killed each year when they accidentally fly into glass windows, while bird collisions with buildings in the Greater Toronto Area alone are estimated at one to 10 million each year. Toronto is on a major migratory corridor and York University, with its green landscaping and several woodlots, is a common spot for migrating birds.

Stutchbury estimates that at least 1,000 birds each year are killed by window collision at the Keele Campus, which is to be expected given the many buildings and natural landscaping.