Free As a Bird

Image courtesy of Pxfuel.

We all recognize the signs: the sickening thud on the window, the flutter of feathers hitting the ground, and the stomach-churning dread of peeking outside. As one of the top causes of bird deaths, bird-window collisions kill almost one billion birds per year. However, a new project at Yale University seeks to challenge this reality: the Yale Bird-Friendly Building Initiative, a collaboration between Yale Law School’s Law, Ethics and Animals Program, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, the Yale Offices of Sustainability and Facilities, and the American Bird Conservancy.

Launched in the spring of 2022, the Initiative aims to mitigate bird-window collisions and adopt bird-friendly designs on Yale’s campus and beyond. The Initiative records the location, time, and cause of all reported bird deaths, preserving the carcasses for future insight. “If I find a dead bird or someone else brings it to me, I want to preserve it because it gives them a second life in a way, because they become imminently useful,” said Kristoff Zyskowski, collections manager at the Yale Peabody Museum. The Initiative found that designs with highly reflective, transparent glass and nearby trees create a deadly optical illusion, luring birds to their death.

“Our ultimate goal, in my view, is for Yale to be the gold standard of what it looks like to be a bird-friendly campus,” said Viveca Morris, executive director of the Law, Ethics, and Animals Program. Future developments involve retrofitting Yale buildings and implementing new design regulations on campus and beyond. By saving countless birds, this project sets its sights on a new vision of wildlife sustainability.