Main Campus not for the birds

More Temple buildings should utilize bird-safe windows.

Chelsea Ann Rovnan

Dodging bird carcasses splattered on the cement has unfortunately become a part of the typical Temple student’s daily routine.

A walk to my statistics class in Alter Hall has turned into an obstacle course during the last few months, as the block of Montgomery Avenue between 13th and Broad streets has become littered with the poor animals’ lifeless bodies more often than not.

A number of buildings on Main Campus – including Alter – have reflective windows, which mirror the sky and the buildings’ surrounding trees. What appears welcoming to the incoming birds is not actually a tree – but usually once the birds realize this, it’s too late.

Birds can be found lying lifeless in many places on Main Campus. Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Alter and the Student Center are just a few of the many buildings that I have seen surrounded by dead birds. I can’t help but think that the windows have something to do with it, as these three buildings are heavily made of glass.

For a university that prides itself on being Owls, one would think that the school would have more sympathy for other fowl – or at least be trying to do more about the issue to prevent further loss of animal life.

If her handler were to walk her around Main Campus, I have a feeling Stella, our beloved live mascot who is known to cheer on our basketball and football teams by attending their games – would be incredibly distraught at the sight of her kin crushed on the ground. And I’m sure Hooter would be saddened by his fallen brethren, as well.

In September, 33-year-old glass major Karlee Mariel Felger found an alarming number of dead birds as she walked around Tyler, which is just one of more than 70 buildings considered to be a part of Main Campus. Felger said she encountered 20 dead birds within its perimeter.

Imagine if 20 birds were discovered dead around the perimeter of each and every one of our buildings at Temple. We’d have 1,400 dead birds lying by our feet.

In 2011, The Temple News reported a similar number – between 800 and 1,000 birds died within the year from direct contact with reflective windows on Main Campus.

The sight of bird carcasses on the sidewalks would be slightly less traumatizing if feathers were the only remains left for us to see. However, full bodies of the animals remain on our walkways. Occasionally, a bird’s body may be stepped on or even ran over by a car, skateboard or bike – and it’s easy to see the anatomy of the bird in an instant.

Birds don’t need to be dying and students shouldn’t have to see death – no matter what magnitude – on their way to class.

There is not enough being done by the university to prevent birds from flying into our buildings’ windows – so, while we shamelessly refer to ourselves as owls, many similar creatures are lying dead within the boundaries of Main Campus.

Last month, The Temple News reported that Katherine Switala-Elmhurst, program manager for the Office of Sustainability, is hoping to right this wrong within the near future.

In 2011, students competed in a design contest for a surface-care film that would be used to deter birds and avoid collisions. The winner created an art installation of music notes, birds and horizontal lines on the glass walls of the walkway between the Tuttleman Learning Center and Paley Library. The markings on the glass keep birds from flying into it, resulting in less bird casualties around these buildings. Simple displays like this are a win-win situation, because not only are we helping to prevent birds from dying, we are also showcasing some of our students’ talents.

With this tragic pattern of birds dying in mind, Morgan Hall was constructed with porous glass, said Glenn Eck, grounds superintendent. The porous glass – also known as “fritted glass” – is a step in the right direction. Eck said that it has proven to be successful when it comes to deterring birds from colliding with the buildings.

Main Campus’s newest addition – the Science Education and Research Center – isn’t equipped with this type of “fritted glass” that seems to be working well for Morgan. Instead, a series of shelves has been installed in SERC in hopes that they too will help prevent birds from crashing.

As ideas for further campus development are discussed within the Visualize Temple program, students should use this opportunity to insist that Temple continue researching alternatives to reflective glass windows, like the “fritted” glass, designs and shelves, in order to reduce the number of dead birds lying on the sidewalk.

Chelsea Rovnan can be reached at

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