Bird-safe Buildings for San Francisco


More dangerous than wind-farms, more insidious than cats… it’s windows. (The glass ones, not the thing produced by Microsoft.) Birds can’t see normal glass, and crash into it. Either they die, or they become easy prey.

San Francisco, like Chicago and Toronto, is trying to introduce legislation to make glass buildings safer for birds.  Here’s a quote from the Planning Department website:

The newly adopted Standards for Bird-Safe Buildings [Note: this is a PDF file] explains the documented risks that structures present to birds. Over thirty years of research has proven the risk to be “biologically significant” for certain bird species. Recent studies have determined that annual bird fatalities in North America from window collisions may be as high as 1 billion birds per year or 1-5% of all birds. While the facts are staggering, the solutions are within reach. The majority of these deaths are foreseeable and avoidable. The document summarizes proven successful remedies such as window treatments, lighting design, and lighting operation. The document proposes a three-pronged approach to the problem:

  1. establishment of requirements for the most hazardous conditions; ( page 28 of Standards for Bird-Safe Buildings )
  2. use of an educational checklist to educate project sponsors and their future tenants on potential hazards; and ( page 38 of Standards for Bird-Safe Buildings )
  3. creation and expansion of voluntary programs to encourage more bird-safe practices including acknowledging those who pursue certification through a proposed new program for “bird-safe building” recognition. ( page 33 of Standards for Bird-Safe Buildings )

If you’re living in San Francisco, please write to your Supervisor to support this.

[Edited to Add on 19 Sept 2011: Even Fox has an item about it, illustrated in a fair and balanced way with a graphic … from the poster for Hitchcock’s “Birds.”]


And meanwhile: If you find a crashed bird and it’s not dead — try to rescue it by providing a safe quiet place and some food and water. There’s a heart-warming story here on Walter Kitundu’s marvelous bird blog, wherein he saves a young Western tanager. It has some charming photographs.


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