University of Minnesota partners with San Diego Zoo to test bird and window collisions

December 29, 2015

The University of Minnesota is partnering with researchers at the San Diego Zoo to host the nation’s first real-world testing of an experimental window film aimed at reducing collisions between birds and windows. With support from the University’s Facilities Management staff and experts from the University’s College of Biological Sciences, College of Science and Engineering and College of Veterinary Medicine, the partnership will test the effectiveness of window film with alternating ultraviolet (UV) reflecting stripes in reducing bird collisions.

“We are honored to host the first real-life testing of UV-reflective film,” said Mike Berthelsen, Associate Vice President of U of M Facilities Management. “We’re hopeful that these tests will lead to a cost-effective solution in ensuring bird safety.”

The effectiveness of UV patterns in preventing bird collisions is highly debated and until now research has only been done in artificial conditions.

“Early field tests of the UV film in artificial conditions by scientists in Pennsylvania were promising,” says Paquita Hoeck, a postdoctoral associate with the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. “Now we hope that birds using the Mississippi River flyway can see the UV pattern and that the film will work in real-life conditions.”

University of Minnesota Facilities Management staff installed the UV film and video equipment in three locations on the University’s West Bank and St. Paul campuses: the skyway between Blegen Hall and Social Sciences Hall and on north-facing windows on Coffey Hall and Ruttan Hall. In addition to the UV film, shock sensors and video cameras were installed to verify bird collisions. Adjacent windows were covered with film lacking the UV stripes, while others received no film at all.

Experts from the College of Biological Sciences and College of Science and Engineering are helping maintain the monitoring equipment and tracking the results.

University of Minnesota veterinary technician Stephanie Beard helps care for the injured birds that survive their campus-based collisions. She has assembled four years of collision data and helped decide where to conduct the tests. “Based on our data, these locations were among the most deadly areas on campus for bird collisions, primarily because of the habitat they reflect.”

The project team is hopeful the surface-applied UV film will perform well without restricting views. Researchers plan to continue the study through at least the spring of 2016. 

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