- The New York City Council passed a bill requiring new or altered buildings to use bird-friendly glass to cut down on bird deaths from window strikes.
- The legislation requires 90% of exteriors on the first 75 feet of buildings, and the first 12 feet adjacent to a green roof, to be constructed with bird-friendly materials. Bird-friendly glass has features such as glazing or patterns so animals can clearly identify a solid object's presence, as opposed to the effects of reflective glass.
- Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the bill into law, and it would take effect late next year.
Legislators included the stated height requirements due to where most bird collisions occur. The bill not only considers windows closer to the ground, but also those close to green roofs, which are shown to attract birds.
The New York City Audubon, a wild bird protection organization, heralded the measure, saying it could reduce the 90,000 to 230,000 bird deaths that occur each year in New York City. Council Member Rafael Espinal, the lead bill sponsor, said on Twitter that the NYC Audubon educated him about the problem of bird strikes in urban areas. Some advocates contend that reflective glass carries the ancillary benefit of reducing heat inside buildings.
San Francisco and Oakland, CA are among the cities where bird-friendly building laws already are in place. But New York is the largest city to pass this type of measure.
Some groups — even council members — voiced concerns about the measure for reasons such as potentially higher construction costs related to using the specific materials. The Real Estate Board of New York Advocates was among the concerned groups and spoke up over factors such as the availability of bird-friendly building materials; its concerns have been assuaged and the group says it will monitor the bill's implementation.
Environmentalists increasingly point out problems with declining animal populations and the impact humans have on them. Similar concerns exist over the declining bee population; bees are pollinators that aid humans in ways such as ensuring that plant populations thrive and are diverse.
A study published in the journal Science this fall revealed information that many found shocking: North America's bird population has declined by 29%, or 3 billion, since 1970. The decline isn't just affecting endangered species, either; commonly found birds that can thrive almost anywhere, such as sparrows, are among the hardest hit.
Scientists say the loss of birds is concerning because it could indicate an environmental and ecological crisis. Birds are an "indicator" species, meaning they are the first to feel negative environmental effects and can indicate trouble for an entire ecosystem. This quality has been known for decades, as evidenced by the old adage "canary in a coalmine" — coal miners used to take canaries or other birds with them into the mine because they would show signs of toxic gas exposure before humans, thus warning the miners to get out of that area.
Similarly, some scientists worry that North America's significant bird loss in less than 50 years signals environmental trouble, although the research study did not suggest causation for the population decline.