Yale Bird-Friendly Building Initiative

For billions of birds, windows are invisible killers. Scientists estimate that as many as one billion birds die by window collisions every year in United States, making buildings one of the country’s leading causes of wild bird mortality. These bird deaths are preventable. Decades of research has shown that bird-window collisions can be significantly reduced by incorporating bird-friendly design into buildings, lighting, and landscaping. Yet, despite its staggering scale and solvable nature, the problem is not yet widely recognized or acted upon by policymakers or by large institutions.

With the support of a seed grant from the Yale University Planetary Solutions Project, the Yale Bird-Friendly Building Initiative launched in May 2022. The initiative aims to accelerate the adoption of bird-friendly design on Yale’s campus and beyond. The Initiative is co-led by the Law, Ethics & Animals Program (LEAP) at Yale Law School, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and the Yale Office of Sustainability. In 2022 and 2023, the Initiative is conducting two research projects in partnership with American Bird Conservancy.

The first research project focuses on creating a data-driven action plan for how the university can significantly reduce bird-window collisions on campus. The research team will collect data on bird-window collisions on Yale’s campus and in the city of New Haven through carcass surveys conducted during the migration seasons, citizen science reports, and historic data from the Peabody Museum’s ornithology collection; identify buildings and specific facades that are killing high numbers of birds; identify mitigation solutions for those buildings; and propose updated and rigorous institutional design standards to prevent unnecessary bird deaths at new and remodeled buildings. These recommendations for institutional design standards will be published in an open source format for use by other universities and institutions. Bird carcasses collected during the research will be added to the Yale Peabody Museum’s ornithology collection.

The Initiative’s second project focuses on researching the effectiveness of existing bird-friendly building design policies in U.S. and of new public policy strategies that could accelerate the development and adoption of bird-friendly design, technologies, practices, and materials at both new and existing buildings. In recent decades, more than a dozen cities and towns across America – including New York City – have adopted bird-friendly design guidelines or requirements, typically by modifying building or zoning codes for certain types of new buildings. Legislation aimed at reducing bird mortality due to buildings has also been proposed at the state and federal levels. These efforts vary significantly in their structure, effectiveness, and reach. In August 2023, LEAP published a report on this research in collaboration with American Bird Conservancy that serves as a resource for the public, advocates, and policymakers. The report, “Building Safer Cities for Birds: How Cities Are Leading the Way on Bird-Friendly Building Policy,” is available for download.

Learn more about the Yale Bird-Friendly Building on the Initiative’s website.