Common Yellowthroat by Owen Deutsch_News.png

Birds such as the Common Yellowthroat fly into reflective glass because they confuse mirrored trees and other habitat for the real thing. The proposed legislation will reduce this threat. Photo by Owen Deutsch

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing H.R 2, which includes H.R. 919 – Bird-Safe Buildings Act, today. This bipartisan bill is designed to reduce bird mortality by calling for federal buildings to incorporate bird-safe building materials and design features. As many as 1 billion birds a year die in collisions with buildings in the United States alone.

Congressman Mike Quigley has been the driving force behind this bipartisan legislation for more than a decade. “In a time when wildlife faces unprecedented, human-driven challenges, we have an obligation to be responsible members of our environment and do what we can to mitigate our impacts on those we share this planet with,” said Congressman Quigley. “That can start with protecting wildlife from deadly collisions with our buildings.”

The Bird-Safe Buildings Act will soon be introduced in the Senate, and conservationists are optimistic about its passage.

Many bird-friendly design techniques — such as installing screens or grilles on windows and minimizing the use of glass on lower floors — are already used in some federal buildings to control heat and light, or for security. The proposed bill would require the General Services Administration to apply similar measures, where practicable, to all new and existing federal buildings.

The legislation would help address one of the greatest human-caused threats to birds, said Dr. Christine Sheppard, Director of ABC's Glass Collisions Program:

“In 2008, ABC founded what is still the only national-level program dedicated to reducing the billion bird deaths that occur annually from collisions with glass in the U.S.,” said Dr. Sheppard. “Since then, more than 20 states, counties, and municipalities have passed bird-friendly legislation. However, the H.R. 919 is a game-changer. The recognition of this issue at the federal level is a momentous achievement because if passed by the Senate and put into law, it will set an example for the entire U.S.A.”

Leading up to this heartening news, in December 2019, the New York City Council passed the country’s most comprehensive bird-friendly buildings law. These advancements are coming not a moment too soon for declining bird species: A study published in Science in fall 2019 reported that the U.S. and Canadian breeding bird population dropped by more than one-quarter since 1970. According to New York City Audubon's Project Safe Flight, 90,000 to 230,000 birds die after colliding with glass each year during their migrations through New York City alone.

2014 study found that the White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Ovenbird, and Song Sparrow are among the species most commonly killed by collisions with buildings. Among other widespread species frequently colliding with buildings is the Common Yellowthroat, pictured above. The study also reported that several species of national conservation concern are especially vulnerable to collisions, including the Wood Thrush, Golden-winged Warbler, Canada Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, and Painted Bunting. Fortunately, both home and commercial windows can easily be made safer for birds.

In other good news for birds, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) was included and passed in H.R. 2. RAWA marks a major advance for wildlife conservation, providing $1.3 billion annually to state wildlife agencies and prioritizing conservation of species that are endangered or at risk of becoming endangered.

ABC thanks the Leon Levy Foundation and David Walsh for their support of ABC’s Glass Collisions Program.