At the University of Georgia in Athens, I walked to many of my classes through the open plaza that connects the psychology building to the journalism building. Before skipping downstairs to the basement “photo cave” for my photojournalism classes, I would sometimes see out of the periphery of my right eye a small, colorful creature lying on the gray cement below the building’s four stories of windows.
Sometimes other students would also notice the dead birds on the plaza, stopping to snap photos on their iPhones and sending them to their friends, perhaps alongside broken heart emojis. I, too, would stop for a moment and wonder why birds died so often by my college building, but never bothered to look up and realize the reason.
Bird strikes have become normalized in many of our minds.
One thousand six hundred forty miles away from Athens as the crow flies, the University of Georgia’s campus in Costa Rica conducts research and maintains efforts to prevent the occurrence of bird strikes.
As soon as you walk to the edificio principal, or the student union, you can see window decals in the shapes of hummingbirds, butterflies and toucans. Birds often mistake reflections for a continuation of the outside environment or see through the windows and think they can fly through them. These window stickers act as just one of many ways we can prevent the bird injuries and deaths by reducing the incidence of bird strikes.
I recently sat down with Martha Garro Cruz, UGA Costa Rica’s Academic Programs Facilitator, to learn about her research on bird strikes at UGA Costa Rica. Martha, 29, grew up nearby in Santa Elena and became interested in bird strike research through her past work with Rose Marie Menacho.
Menacho, an environmental educator and researcher based in Monteverde, has worked extensively to research bird strikes in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and recently presented her work on bird strikes in Costa Rica at the Monteverde Arenal Bioregion conference.
While most information on bird strikes currently reflects findings from the United States and Canada, this type of research is especially important to Costa Rica because of the country’s high level of biodiversity and the importance of bird watching to Costa Rica’s tourism industry.
In the United States alone, an estimated 100 million to 1 billion birds die each year as a result of bird strikes.
Thankfully, everybody can do something to combat this problem. Here at UGA Costa Rica, Cruz has incorporated a citizen science component into her research on bird strikes, relying on students and guests to observe and record bird strikes when they occur on campus in addition to her own observations and data collection. Cruz conducts her research three consecutive days per week using a numbered window system to track where strikes occur most frequently and which bird species are most susceptible to strikes.
While the majority of bird strikes occur at low-rise buildings, such as the journalism building I frequented on the campus of the University of Georgia, 44 percent of bird strikes occur at residences. So whether at your home or in the workplace, you have the ability to combat the prevalence of bird strikes.
Here are a few ways to prevent bird strikes in your own community:
- Use stickers or decals, like those we use at UGACR, to decorate your windows
- Draw designs on the outside of windows using UV pens or window markers
- Tie strings to the tops of windows, leaving 10 centimeters between each, or use tape to create a similar pattern of vertical lines
- Close your blinds when you exit a room or leave the house and turn off lights at night
- Encourage the companies you work for to invest in high-tech, beautifully-designed methods to avoid bird strikes, like those mentioned in the article below
Learn More: View this video by National Geographic on how we can prevent millions of bird deaths through innovative window designs
Blog post written by photojournalism intern Rachel Eubanks