Updates from Johnson County College: Saving the local bird population – one window dot at a time

What started as a seven-month trial study in 2017 has evolved into a full-force campus effort to mitigate the number of bird collisions with buildings at Johnson County Community College.

Incubation Stage

A notable increase in the number of birds colliding with windows at JCCC prompted the 2017 study. The results found our glass windows and walkways were overly reflective and transparent. This caused birds to mistake reflections for open space between actual tree branches, resulting in an unfortunate collision mid-flight. Since the study began, the JCCC Center for Sustainability has recorded over 447 collisions among 71 different species.

You might be wondering how one department could possibly track all collisions across campus. In short, it takes a village! A dedicated team of volunteer students and staff regularly walk routes around nine key buildings – eyes peeled for injured or deceased birds. The volunteers carefully recover any deceased birds and send them to the Kansas University Center for Biodiversity. From there, researchers are able to analyze and produce data to help pinpoint collision hotspots around campus. All fallen birds are recorded through a tagging system, and photographs are uploaded to iNaturalist for crowd sourced species identification.

Don’t worry, not all recovered birds are deceased! JCCC implemented a campus hotline that anyone can use to report a fallen bird. Thanks to the diligence of our bird spotters, 60 injured birds have been recovered over the last 20 months. Wounded birds are held in a secluded location at JCCC until they can be transported to Operation Wildlife in Linwood, Kansas. Once there, the birds are checked and treated for any concussions or broken bones.

Hatching a Plan

With other large institutions across the country experiencing a similar if not greater volume of bird collisions, the need for a solution was clear. Fortunately, there are several methods to help prevent bird strikes on windows, one of which is bird smart glass. The College chose this option because of its architectural look and ability to blend in with existing design. Research shows that dot or grid patterns are highly effective in preventing bird collisions by breaking up reflections to create a visual barrier.

The Study Takes Flight

Currently, 14 campus locations, including windows and covered walkways, have been treated with various designs of dot decals. We’re happy to report a 56% reduction in bird strikes across campus so far this year (compared to 2018). In addition, we’ve seen a 70-100% reduction in strikes across all remediated areas! The ongoing data collection efforts of our Center for Sustainability help guide future plans to treat new sites and modify existing remediation where needed.

In addition to protecting birds at JCCC, we hope to share our research and findings so other educational institutions can adopt similar programs.

Krystal Anton, JCCC Zero Waste Coordinator, states, “The ultimate goal would be not only solving the majority of bird strikes on our campus but offering reproducible search methods and data protocols for other campuses to do their own studies. We also want to offer the data on different types of solutions based on effectiveness, aesthetics and price, so that they can find the right combination to solve their own bird strike issues.”

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