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University of Guelph bus shelters get bird-friendly upgrade

University has also agreed to update design standards to ensure future new builds and major renovations are bird-safe

Bus shelters at the University of Guelph have received a bird-safe makeover, becoming the first of what a local conservation group hopes will be many fowl-friendly upgrades on campus. 

The new evenly spaced-white dots on the shelter windows are designed to make the glass visible to birds and prevent potentially fatal collisions. 

Hayley Wilson, founder of Bird Safe Guelph, the organization behind the project, said an estimated 25 million birds die every year in Canada due to window collisions, making it the second biggest cause of human-influenced bird death after cats.

"This is a huge number of birds," said Wilson, a PhD student who studies songbird physiology and fitness. "And we feel it's a preventable issue because all that really needs to be done is to put stickers on the windows."

In the last year, Bird Safe Guelph has distributed free kits to homeowners and helped organize a new window mural at Guelph City Hall

Located on a main migratory flyway, Guelph sees "tons and tons" of birds travelling through each spring and fall, in addition to the area's regular bird population, said Wilson. 

Along with engaging and educating the community about bird conservation, the group has also been advocating for the municipality and the university to take bigger actions to protect birds. 

In the case of the new window film on the bus shelters, Bird Safe Guelph and the university agreed the structures would be "a great place to start," said Wilson. 

"We had been told by some students around the university that they'd seen birds beside the bus shelters," Wilson said, adding their prominent location will also aid in raising awareness in the community.

Seeing the upgrades at the shelters, is "exciting," said Wilson.

"And we're excited to continue working with the university to make bigger changes going forward," she continued. 

Through talks with Bird Safe Guelph, the university has agreed to update it's building and design standards. Set to be implemented in 2022, the new standards will ensure any new campus buildings or major renovation install windows that conform to Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Bird Friendly Building Design standard.

For existing buildings, Wilson is recruiting Bird Safe Guelph volunteers to launch a collision monitoring program in the spring to determine where other bird-window collisions might be happening.

“That will help us put together an action plan to retrofit the highest risk windows on campus,” Wilson explained in a media release. “The types of windows that tend to cause the most problems are large windows at tree height that reflect greenery and make birds think they can fly right through.”

University staff appear similarly enthusiastic about the project. 

“To make real progress on advancing campus sustainability and climate action, we need to collaborate with those who can identify the problems we’re experiencing and articulate the right solutions,”  Brandon Raco, manager of the university's office of sustainability, said in the release. 

“Being able to take Hayley’s expertise on birds and apply it to campus has been a great experience. There’s been such a strong spirit of collaboration with all involved that I hope we can foster more of as we look to the future.”


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Alison Sandstrom

About the Author: Alison Sandstrom

Alison Sandstrom is a staff reporter for GuelphToday
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