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One billion deaths

Grenfell part of international bird-window mortality research network

Research

By Melanie Callahan

The work of Grenfell biology students has been included in an international publication that examines incidences of bird deaths following collisions with windows.

Recently, Dr. Erin Fraser’s Environmental Science 3131: Impacted Terrestrial Ecosystems class participated in a continental-scale study to investigate incidences of bird-window collisions.

International collaboration

Grenfell Campus was one of 40 campuses throughout Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to be part of the initiative led by Dr. Stephen B. Hager, Augstana College, Rock Island, Ill., and Dr. Bradley J. Cosentino, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY.

The collaborators of the Bird-Window Collisions Project recently announced the publication of their research, Continent-Wide Analysis of How Urbanization Affects Bird-Window Collision Mortality in North America in the journal Biological Conservation.

Researchers estimate that nearly one billion birds die annually in North America after colliding with windows in the exterior walls of buildings.

From left, biology students Jasmine Pinksen and Nathaniel Bartlett participated in bird-window mortality on campus.
From left, biology students Jasmine Pinksen and Nathaniel Bartlett participated in bird-window mortality on campus.

Numerous bird species are affected by bird-building collisions, including species that are declining through their ranges. The researchers think bird-window collision mortality may be related to how birds select habitats during migration and the differences in bird behaviour between urban and rural populations.

Windows and building height

The research revealed that window collision risk is primarily related to the amount of windows in buildings and environmental features immediately surrounding buildings.

Bird mortality is highest at large buildings (such as 1-3 story low-rise office buildings) with many windows and lowest at small residential structures (such as one-story houses) with relatively few windows.

“As a group, we also took photos of all of our study buildings and measured the window area of each.” — Dr. Erin Fraser

Dr. Fraser says that the students’ contribution involved regularly surveying around some key buildings at Grenfell Campus and in the Corner Brook area to look for bird carcasses during the fall migration period.

“As part of their coursework, students took turns completing the surveys and keeping track of the findings,” she said.

“As a group, we also took photos of all of our study buildings and measured the window area of each. The Bird-Window Collisions Project is part of a program called the Ecological Research as Education Network. A main goal of this program is to support large-scale collaborative projects that involve undergraduate students in data collection for real research projects that will ultimately be published.”


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