23 April 2008

University of Nebraska to Improve Campus Conditions for Wildbirds

CPN Passageway.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will be the first in Nebraska to address the deaths of birds from striking buildings, with an initiative to address known hazards on campus.

At a meeting held on Earth Day 2008, Ted Weidner, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Facilities Management & Planning, said the campus plans to “take care” of several locations where birds have died by colliding with buildings.

The priority sites - based on an evaluation of known instances of mortality - are the Cather-Pound-Neihardt passageway, Oldfather Hall links to Bessey Hall and Burnett Hall, Love Library, Manter Hall, and the Nebraska Hall link.

At the Architecture Hall link, another known problem site, the glass exterior walls are expected to be replaced in a few years, so an interim solution will be devised.

Weidner said a coordinated effort will be required to get facilities staff, building management personnel and others involved to implement protective measures. Students can possibly get involved through classroom learning projects, and through groups such as the Wildlife Club and campus ecology club. The expertise of campus staff is another asset that may be helpful in finding effective solutions.

A primary option being considered is placing an opaque film on the glass surfaces, to make them visible to birds so it can be avoided. Also being considered, at the east side of Memorial Stadium, is turning off interior lights to avoid confusing birds, which can result in collisions.

Another site of concern is the Sheldon Art Gallery, one of the “most recognized architectural facilities in Nebraska,” said Weidner. This building has extensive glass areas on the east and west side. Options to be considered include an evaluation on the use of interior lights during the night, and how to reduce the threat of the transparent and reflective characteristics of the glass.

We have “the most work to do” at this building, Weidner said.

Predawn at Sheldon Art Gallery, showing interior lights.

Reflectivity conditions at Sheldon Art Gallery.

These efforts will be carried out during the next 60 days, with a goal of completing efforts at the priority sites by the end of June.

Robert Harms, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also present at the meeting, stressed the agency’s focus on conservation of migratory birds.

In the case of UNL, the “incidental taking” – i.e., bird deaths due to striking a building – is addressed by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, enacted in 1917.

The FWS is “very concerned” with the ongoing deaths of birds at UNL, Harms said, and is pleased at efforts that will reduce the numbers of bird deaths at the Lincoln campus. “We want people to try options” to reduce mortality.

Efforts that will be undertaken will be evaluated for effectiveness and cost considerations.

Grackle carcass at Oldfather Hall.

East glass at Memorial Stadium.

There is also the need for a better understanding of bird mortality from building strikes at East Campus, but a lack of available details is currently limiting what can be done to buildings there.

Most of the bird deaths at UNL are known from city campus, and only a few records are known from C.Y. Thompson Library and the Law College building.

Weidner also indicated that the campus now includes bird-friendly design for buildings in its design guidelines for new construction.

When planning for the addition to the Nebraska Union was evaluated by campus students and staff, several comments were received that supported a bird-friendly design. Building architects have considered bird-friendly measures in determining the construction of the addition that will be constructed soon.

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