Rangers Give Back: Window Painting to Deter Bird Collisions

Published: March 26, 2024
By: Maris Dishno, Director of Donor & Alumni Engagement

Rangers Give BackSet amid sprawling woodlands and prairies, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside boasts a campus that stands out as one of the most picturesque in the state. However, this idyllic setting harbors a perilous challenge for migratory birds, as the intertwined landscape of glass and forest can prove deceptive, and deadly. 

Why do buildings pose such a hazard to birds? During their fall and spring migrations, birds seek rest and refueling spots, and UW-Parkside's natural areas provide an optimal stopover location. Unfortunately, the expansive window panes reflecting the surrounding forest can bewilder birds, resulting in collisions with the glass. Shockingly, up to 1 billion birds die every year in the United States from collisions with buildings. Passionate students and supportive faculty at UW-Parkside are taking action to reduce this staggering casualty count.  

In 2022, students in the Parkside Environmental Club (PEC) began documenting bird collision locations on campus. "I started this project knowing that bird populations were in decline,” said Skylar Johnston, now alumna, who started the survey. “I saw a way in which the Parkside community could work together to alleviate at least one issue to help protect birds on campus.” Over 100 collisions have been recorded, including beloved species such as owls, kingfishers, and hummingbirds. The resulting map allowed PEC to identify the “hotspots” around campus where the most collisions are occurring. “I am so thankful for every person who has helped with this project,” added Johnston.  

Fortunately, there are scientifically proven methods to mitigate bird collisions with windows. Installing small dot decals across the exterior window surface creates a grid that disrupts reflections, enabling birds to perceive the glass and avoid collisions. Dotted grids have demonstrated up to a 95% reduction in collisions while preserving interior views from the building.  

This spring, UW-Parkside, in collaboration with PEC, is launching a campaign to raise awareness and funds for installing grids on windows with documented high collision rates around campus. As part of the initiative, volunteers will kick off the efforts on Parkside Day, April 10th, by painting windows with patterns as a temporary solution to break up reflections and assist birds in avoiding collisions. 

Angelita Rodriguez, President of PEC, emphasized the club's commitment to environmental consciousness, stating, "The PEC cares about being environmentally conscious because we believe all lives are precious and valuable no matter how small; therefore, it’s our duty to live harmoniously with nature to the best of our abilities. This project enhances wildlife management, raises awareness on risks and viable solutions to protect wildlife species in our community, and demonstrates purposeful action towards environmental awareness to fulfill a need for the preservation of wildlife." 

To support Campus Sustainability and Wildlife Preservation at UW-Parkside donate here

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