Opinion–Protecting the birds at NMU

Biology student Grace Charles shares her ideas on how to protect our birds on campus.

Photo courtesy of Grace Charles
Biology student Grace Charles shares her ideas on how to protect our birds on campus. Photo courtesy of Grace Charles

Here at Northern Michigan University, we have many great buildings that provide us with protection from the frigid northern winters to learn and live. Not many of us think about the impacts these buildings are having on birds. We see all the gulls sitting on the roofs every day, but what we don’t consider is when these birds hit the windows.

When a bird sees light on the other side, or the reflection of trees or sky, it will try to fly right through a window and will either die or have a concussion, which will immobilize it for some time making it susceptible to predation. If the window has a screen, beaks could get stuck, causing a slow death.

All the dumpsters outside of the dining hall are causing an increase in campus bird activity which increases the chances of a bird colliding with a campus window.

Birds are an extremely vital component of our ecosystem, and so their population is critically necessary. Most birds eat bugs, and Crows, vultures, and eagles specifically clean up carcasses that could spread disease. Hummingbirds are pollinators, which is super important for plants. Tons of birds also disperse seeds which is great for biodiversity. Many scientists call birds “ecosystem engineers” because of their amazing ability to shape an ecosystem.

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One way to stop the birds from hitting the windows is using UV reflective coating. Birds can see ultraviolet lights, which means that this glass will be visible to birds, but barely visible to the human eye. To birds, the UV coating will appear black or violet, because of the UV absorbing qualities. You can purchase the UV-absorbing window polish at Home Depot or Amazon, so this seems to be the easiest and cheapest thing for NMU to invest in. Patterns and textures in the window can also help reduce bird collisions, so shutters on the outside of windows are always a good idea, too.

Bird-friendly DIY tips to add to your home:

-Window paint: adding fun paintings to your windows will not only be fun for you but the birds will see the color and not fly into it. 

-Wind Chimes: the movement, as well as the sounds, will keep the birds away.

-Parachute Cords: Hanging four inches apart in your window is another great tip, as well as window decals, but make sure you put enough window decals because if there is just one the birds will go around it.

There are many things that have good intentions, but aren’t actually helpful, or potentially harmful. For example, hawk silhouettes and bird call deterrents. The birds do not actually respond to them. Closing your curtains also seems like a good option, but it isn’t always the best. It can be a way to reduce the reflections of sky and trees in the window that birds will mistake for the real thing.

We must protect birds at all costs; most people do not see the potential devastation that could erupt with the loss of birds, which includes the loss of crops and trees, as well as insect infestations. So, let’s spread the word for bird safety.

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