Birds fall victim to invisible killer

It’s almost time for birds of all kinds to head South – if they can make it through Temple’s campus alive.

During the fall migration period, which ranges from early October to mid-November, the grounds department said more than 150 birds are found dead on campus after crashing into windows, the largest problem areas being Paley Library and the Tech Center.

“We would clean them up one day and come back the next morning and find 20 more,” said Glenn Eck, assistant superintendent of grounds.

“It’s a huge diversity of birds. We were easily finding 15 different species in reasonable quantities.”

When birds see a window with another window directly behind it, such as the glass walkway in Beury Hall, they often fly straight into it, thinking it’s an open pathway, Eck said.

Paper cutouts of birds hang in Beury’s walkway as an attempt to prevent this.

According to Eck, the more common reason for window striking occurs when birds see the trees or sky reflected on the glass. They head for the landscape they see, not knowing they’re aiming for a solid surface.

Cutouts aren’t effective for these windows because birds see the reflection on the glass, not what’s on the other side. Some birds die on impact. Some succumb to internal injuries hours later and some fly off only slightly stunned.

“It’s mainly a problem at night, during migration season,” Eck said, adding that leaving the lights on in buildings at night can lead birds to strike the windows in greater numbers.

Eck added that Temple’s campus isn’t completely bird un-friendly.

“They do make good use of our trees and bushes,” he said.

Mike Baldassano, an English major working at Paley Library, said he often sees dead birds surrounding the library.

“It’s disgusting,” Baldassano said. “I always have to watch where I’m walking because I don’t want to step on dead birds.”

Swarthmore College has taken steps to make their campus more bird friendly, experimenting with “fritted” windows, which have small circles etched into the glass to minimize reflections.

Another, somewhat expensive, way to minimize the reflection on glass without blocking vision is to place clear adhesive vinyl over the surface, similar to the “wrap” advertisements that cover bus windows.

Though window fatalities kill an estimated one billion birds in the U.S. annually, it seems to be the worst on Temple’s campus during migration season.

Dead or injured birds can be reported to Glenn Eck at 215-204-1303. Injured birds will be taken to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic in Ambler.

Vicky Thomas can be reached at

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