NYC considers requiring 'bird-safe' glass on buildings

Monday September 9 was a busy, but not unusual day at The Wild Bird Fund on the Upper West Side. Several dozen injured birds were brought in, many of them hurt after flying into glass buildings.

"This is their ancient migratory flyway, they come through here spring and autumn, and they have for thousands of years," said Rita McMahon, Director of the Wild Bird Fund, "But in the meantime we've put  up all these very tall buildings that are a death trap."

According to the New York City Audubon Society, anywhere from 90,000 to 230,000 birds die each year from crashing into glass buildings, mistaking the reflections they often cast as open air.

A bill being considered by the City Council aims to make the skies safer for birds by requiring the majority of glass on new and altered buildings to be bird-safe. It's a potentially costly mandate, but one that experts say is effective, and in many cases more energy efficient,

"You can use things like solar shading devices that help reduce energy loads on building, those can be bird-safe and you can also put patterns on glass so birds can see it," explained Dan Piselli, the Director of Sustainability at FXCollaborative, who has worked on a number of buildings with bird-safe glass, including the Javits Center, where glass panels were replaced in 2014.

"We did that with newer glass that wasn't tinted and had newer technologies, and  part of that is the frit pattern that reduces the solar heat in the building and is also bird-safe," explained Piselli.

After the new glass was installed, bird collisions at the Javitz Center were reduced by 90 percent.

Similar laws have already been passed in other cities and in Washington, bills have been introduced in Congress that would require bird safe glass to be installed on some federal buildings.