Reflective windows lead to bird deaths

Administrators said the front windows of the Tyler building pose a potential threat to birds.

While walking around the Tyler School of Art and Architecture building in September, Karlee Mariel Felger counted about 20 dead birds lying on the sidewalk, near the glass entryway.

“They see the reflection and they fly towards it because they don’t understand it’s a window,” said Felger, a 33-year-old glass major.

In 2013, The Temple News reported that about 1,000 birds died that way and since then, various offices and people like Felger have been working to get further bird safety provisions in place before the spring migration, when thousands of birds will pass through Main Campus.

Felger said she hopes to help find a method which works at Tyler and spread its across Main Campus. She also said she wants to eventually find a building protocol which could be implemented across Philadelphia.

Katherine Switala-Elmhurst, program manager for the Office of Sustainability, said that to remedy the situation, her office is looking to make the front of the architecture building more bird-friendly by using artistic installations by Tyler students.

In 2011, students participated in a competition to design a surface-care film, which contained horizontal lines about one inch apart that would serve to warn incoming birds and avoid accidents.

The film was placed along the walkway between the Tuttleman Learning Center and Paley Library earlier this year.

“As far as I know we haven’t found any casualties,” Switala-Elmhurst said.

David Brown, assistant dean of the Boyer College of Music and Dance, said his office is considering the surface film on the front-facing windows of the architecture building, depending on the cost. Brown said his office will meet with the architecture department next week.

Switala-Elmhurst said the film will also be installed on the windows of Ritter Hall, where Rad Dish Co-op will be located, in addition to select locations on Gladfelter Hall.

Switala-Elmhurst said the reason why so many birds die from collisions at Temple and throughout Philadelphia is because the city lies in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway migration route, traveled by thousands of birds every spring and fall.

Glenn Eck, the superintendent of the grounds department, and his crew first discovered the problem in 2004 and since then have been conducting their own research and monitoring large problem locations.

Eck said that Morgan Hall was constructed with “fritted” – or porous – glass, which he said has proven to be successful at deterring birds.

The Science Education and Research Center, which opened in October, does not have the fritted glass. Instead, Switala-Elmhurst said a system of window shelves is in place, which he hopes will break up the window facade and avoid the deceptive reflections that cause bird deaths.

Switala-Elmhurst said it’s too early to tell if this method works.

Eck and Switala-Elmhurst said it’s hard to tell if there has been any decrease in overall bird collisions on Main Campus since 2004 because of the additional new buildings and different monitoring procedures they’ve used.

For the other buildings, Eck said it’s difficult finding a solution which is efficient, practical and cost-effective for large areas of glass.

“We haven’t found the magic bullet yet,” Eck said. “What everyone is trying to find, sort of the holy grail, would be something that is easy to retrofit.”

In 2009, the Grounds Department teamed up with the Audubon Society of Pennsylvania and the Office of Sustainability to conduct a campus-wide survey and try to find solutions.

Eck said they tried using life-like statues of predatory hawks to deter birds from approaching buildings. However, that method didn’t have substantial results.

Other methods include netting, which was installed up around the glass passageway between the two different sections of Beury Hall.

Eck said the netting fell down on one side over the summer, but the department will be remounting it soon.

Felger questioned why Temple has continued to construct buildings with glass facades and no safety measures, like the Tyler School of Art Building, and Alter Hall – which opened in 2009.

Eck said part of the problem is that it’s hard to predict which buildings will be problem areas.

“To some degrees [bird collisions] equate with more glass, but not entirely,” Eck said. “Ritter, for example, doesn’t have a large portion of glass and yet we’ve seen some problems on that too.”

Eck said that this is because different birds have different behavioral patterns: some birds seek shelter and collide with smaller inset windows like the ones at Ritter Hall.

“It’s just the matter of getting the project, outlining it and getting it done,” Felger said. “Not letting it get caught in red tape.”

Mariam Dembele can be reached at and on twitter @Mariam_Dembele

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