Science Is Finally Making Glass That Birds Won't Fly Into

Birds flying into window panes might be the stuff of cartoon comic fodder, but the reality is bleak: Hundreds of millions of birds die from flying into transparent glass every year. Thankfully, science is finally putting a stop to it.

A recent New York Times article gives us a glimpse into the fascinating research being done to save these birds lives. One example of which is the shady, underground tunnel below the Bronx Zoo that's being used as a live testing ground/labyrinth for the tech that will save our flying friends. The Times explains:

At the far end were the adjacent glass panels, illuminated by a daylight simulator. One panel was familiar transparent glass, which contributes to the demise of hundreds of millions of birds who fly into it each year in the United States. The other was bird-friendly glass, featuring white vertical stripes that are supposed to serve as a kind of avian stop sign.

"I'm hoping it flies," [William] Haffey, [an ecology student at Fordham University], said. (The previous test subject, a white-throated sparrow, had simply hopped around inside the tunnel, looking confused.)

But the yellow-rumped warbler, affectionately called a "butter butt" by birders, flew straight through the tunnel and decisively avoided the bird-safe glass, the desired result.

You can't really blame the birds for not being keen to fly; somewhere between 355 million and 988 million birds die every year from crashing into buildings—deaths that could very well be avoided. One type of new glass called Ornilux has proved particularly effective. Each pane is covered in a patterned, ultraviolet reflective coating that, while almost invisible to humans, shows up loud and clear to any passing birds.

Of course, any windows that need lines or visual cues to make themselves bird-friendly aren't exactly beloved by designers and architects. According to The New York Times:

Part of the tests, therefore, involve spreading lines or visual cues out farther to see when they no longer deter birds. Mr. Haffey said that vertical lines are believed to work best at four inches apart, while horizontal lines need to be spaced every two inches.

"We're going to see how far we can stretch the limits," Mr. Haffey said. "The fewer lines you have on the glass, the happier the architects are going to be."

But if it means saving that many birds, we can stand the occasional eyesore. [New York Times]