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Bird-Friendly Penn

Reducing Bird Strikes

Penn's campus is located along the Atlantic Flyway, making it an important stopover spot for birds during migration. The Bird-Friendly Initiative seeks to reduce bird strikes and building collisions through implementation of bird-friendly building design and campus outreach. 

Reducing Bird Strikes

Penn's campus is located along the Atlantic Flyway, making it an important stopover spot for birds during migration. The Bird-Friendly Initiative seeks to reduce bird strikes and building collisions through implementation of bird-friendly building design and campus outreach. 

Overview

Since 1970, North American bird populations have plummeted by nearly 30% - a particularly alarming figure given that birds are essential for human and environmental health and wellness, providing pest control, pollination, seed propagation, and adding cultural and economic value. In the Fall of 2020 alone, over 1,000 birds were found dead after they flew into buildings and skyscrapers across Philadelphia, in part due to Philadelphia’s central location along the “Atlantic Flyway,” a common migration route for over 500 different species of birds. When these migratory birds encounter the unfamiliar urban landscape, they’re often unable to recognize the see-through and sky-reflecting glass of urban buildings, crashing into them at fatal speeds. These bird deaths are entirely preventable. 

Today, members of the Penn student body, faculty, and staff are working together to make Penn’s campus more environmentally conscious by reducing the number of bird strikes as part of Bird-Friendly Penn. This initiative is spearheaded by the FRES Landscape Architecture Group in partnership with Audubon Mid-Atlantic, Bird-Safe Philly, and Penn Sustainability. Ongoing research is being conducted to document the frequency and location of campus bird strikes, and novel solutions to integrate bird-friendly technology into building architecture, such as UV reflective coatings, are being tested. Outreach materials such as a logo, lawn signs, and brochures were created through a partnership between Colleagues in the Stuart Weitzman School of Design.

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Anchor link: https://www.sustainability.upenn.edu/bird-friendly-penn#programs
Link field url: #programs

Get Involved

Students, staff and faculty, and all members of the Penn community are encouraged to become involved in bird-friendly efforts.

Yellow bird perched on plant in Penn Park
Students | Staff | Faculty

Citizen Science

The Penn Community is active in documenting the frequency and location of bird strikes as well as bird sightings on our campus. Available on Android, iOS, and web browser, iNaturalist is an easy-to-use citizen science application that empowers users to map and observe biodiversity across the world. Collecting this data allows us to better understand campus hotspots and prioritize mitigation efforts.

Report a bird strike

Log a bird sighting

Buildings

Lauder College House
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Campus as a Living Lab

Our campus operates as a dynamic living lab, blending academic study with hands-on experimentation across fields like sustainability, technology, and urban planning. This immersive approach equips students to tackle real-world challenges, fostering creativity and problem-solving skills essential for addressing complex issues post-graduation. Below are a few examples where students, staff, and faculty, combined this concept of campus as a living lab and bird-friendly initiatives:

Penn Housekeeping staff are often the first people on campus each day, and since many bird-strikes occur around dawn, they are in an ideal position to assist with campus bird-strike monitoring. Every spring and fall migration, Housekeeping staff monitor buildings on campus for bird-window collisions and alert the Penn Bird Strikes team when they find a dead bird. This information gets entered into the iNaturalist Penn Bird Strikes website. As monitoring occurs on a grassroots basis, this strategy allows us to increase the amount of data we have about bird-window collisions on campus and determine hot-spots for future mitigation efforts.

In Fall 2022, Bird-Friendly Penn invited submissions for a Design Ideas Competition asking Weitzman students to design exterior window film for select buildings in order to reduce fatal collisions (“bird strikes”). Five winners were selected.

Birds are ubiquitous, intricately connected to habitat, sensitive to environmental changes and their presence can indicate ecosystem function. Situated along a major bird migration route, Penn provides important stop-over habitat for migrating birds and a foraging and nesting habitat for resident birds. Analysis of diversity, abundance, and behavior reveals how the campus landscape provides essential habitat. Point-count surveys and area searches at representative habitat typologies on campus were conducted during migration and breeding seasons in 2018 and 2019. Systematic and incidental data collection resulted in 84 species from 34 families, with a total of 3,777 detections of birds recorded. Enhancing bird-friendly design guidelines and improving campus habitat and management strategies could have a broad impact on landscape connectivity and bird species richness. Learn more by reading this capstone project written by Chloe Cerwinka, Penn's Landscape Planner.

Penn’s Green Fund welcomes ideas from students, faculty, and staff about ways to improve social, environmental, and economic performance on Penn’s campus. With support from the Green Fund, partners from the Perelman School of Medicine, Vet School, and Facilities and Real Estate Services retrofitted glass windows at the Johnson Pavilion and the Vet School to reduce bird strikes.

During the 2019/2020 academic year, student Eco-Reps Ryan Lam (SEAS ‘22) and Avni Limdi (SEAS ‘21) worked with staff at Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES) and the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM) to track bird strikes on campus by documenting bird species and determining where strikes are most common. They also researched best practices at other institutions and developed messaging to raise awareness about this critical environmental issue.    

During the 2021/2022 academic year, student Eco-Reps Ennie Akinwunmi (SAS '23), Gabriel Torrebiarte (WH '23), and Lorraina Rojas (SAS '22) used Penn's campus as a living lab to improve bird habitat in an urban setting by monitoring bird strikes on campus and identify opportunities for outreach initiatives.

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Anchor link: https://www.sustainability.upenn.edu/bird-friendly-penn#partners
Link field url: #partners