Bird-friendly artwork titled “Albireo’s Aviary” installed at University of British Columbia’s Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability. Artist: Lora Zosia Moon. Photo credit: UBC.
Judy Bowes, a local bird-building collision expert and UW Ph.D. student in the College of the Built Environments and leader of the UW Bird-Friendly Campus Group, answered a few of our questions about how the UW is taking birds into consideration with its policy development.
What is the UW developing in terms of a policy?
Sparked by a community member who was concerned about collisions, in September 2021, the university put together the UW Bird-Friendly Campus Group comprised of faculty, grounds staff, building coordinators, architects, and Seattle Audubon staff, to start the development of their own tri-campus policy. The policy will focus on preventing bird-building collisions, but also on light pollution reduction, habitat creation, and the change to organic pesticides. The UW Bothell campus already made the switch to organic herbicides and has seen an increase in wildlife diversity.
What buildings on the UW campuses are problematic?
Specific building features are more deadly than others so we are prioritizing treatment areas. Transparent walkways, of which there are three at UW Seattle that all show imprints of a bird strike on the glass, are the deadliest. Transparent corners, where two walls of glass come together, are also a top concern. UW is joining Seattle University as the second university campus to have some of its buildings monitored by volunteers through Seattle Audubon’s collision monitoring program in order to gain valuable insight.
What are some of the challenges you have already faced as UW considers a campus-wide plan?
Reducing light pollution is important to prevent drawing migrating birds off course and in close proximity of lit glass surfaces; however, university campuses require a certain level of night lighting to maintain safety for their student bodies.
Because many window treatment options, like Feather Friendly vinyl dot patterns, are new on the market, we have limited information on how long these treatments will last. The combination of long-term sun and rain exposure that we have in Seattle could mean they last their expected 15-20 years, or not.
We also currently lack data on window collisions at a local level. When we develop a policy, it needs to protect the greatest number of birds possible. To do so, we need science-based solutions that reduce collisions for local and migrating bird species.
Why are university campuses some of the first to develop bird-friendly policies?
Universities value research. The University of British Columbia was conducting its own on-campus research and an estimated 10,000 birds were dying annually, in part due to building design and the proximity to habitat on campus. This sparked their interest in a campus-wide bird-friendly buildings policy.
Private corporate campuses use a lot of glass in their building designs. Glass lets in natural light and beautiful views, which contribute to employee well-being. What is missing is the education piece for architects and designers of these corporate campuses to learn how to effectively use glass treatments that allow for natural light, but are also bird-friendly.
Explore other articles in this issue of EarthCare Northwest | Summer 2022
There are countless places to enjoy birds. Seattle Audubon members offer their suggestions for some lesser-known locations in the area that you might consider for your next local birding adventure.
Tammy VuPham shares her experience birding at Union Bay Natural Area with Outdoor Asian, a group building community through shared outdoor experiences like this one.
Seattle Audubon’s Urban Conservation Manager, Joshua Morris, calls for more housing, in addition to enhancing the tree canopy. He outlines the road ahead, and how these priorities don’t need to be at odds.