UWO works to end bird-window collisions, deaths


Tino Starr/Advance-Titan — UWO has added decals to Sage Hall in hopes of decreasing the number of bird collisions and deaths.

Kelly Hueckman, Opinion Editor

With the weather cooling down, the flight south for many birds at UW Oshkosh hasn’t been without some major obstacles.

Bird-window collisions have proven to be a biannual issue at UWO’s Sage Hall during spring and fall, but the Sustainability Institute Research Team (SIRT) on campus has rolled out their new plan to decrease bird fatalities.

“We found out this awesome, environmentally friendly and energy efficient building was the No. 1 killer of songbirds on this campus,” said Brad Spanbauer, UWO campus sustainability coordinator.

To combat the number of bird-window collisions, SIRT placed hundreds of window decals along the southern windows of Sage Hall before the fall semester began. Spanbauer said that birds see the reflections of trees in the windows and think it is a safe path for flight.

“These decals will help break up that surface and reflection so they see there’s a barrier there,” he said.

The team, composed of Spanbauer, associate environmental studies professor Misty McPhee, assistant professor of English and SIRT affiliate Stewart Cole, grounds manager Lisa Mick, associate professor of flute Linda Pereksta and UWO alumna Anita Carpenter, began researching the bird-window collisions in 2018. 

Bird strikes against windows cause approximately one billion bird deaths in North America per year, according to the National Audubon Society. Spanbauer and McPhee began to notice a significant amount of bird carcasses around campus, specifically around the heavily windowed Sage Hall. This prompted the UWO Wildlife Conservation Club to apply for, and receive, support from Green Fund to purchase window decals.

McPhee, adviser of the Wildlife Conservation Club, said the club’s purchase couldn’t be installed for two years due to short staffing and weather conditions. 

After the decals arrived, they were put into short-term storage because facilities management had far more work than people to do it,” she said. “Also, the decals couldn’t be installed in icy, snowy weather.”

SIRT and the Wildlife Conservation Club surveys the number of bird carcasses around the area and which species they belong to when determining how useful the decals are. This is part of the team’s efforts to determine whether certain species are more prone to flying into windows during their migration season.

Spanbauer said that the bird strikes at Sage tended to be species that were uncommon in Wisconsin.

We’re not finding robins and house sparrows; we’re finding rare migratory birds that nest way up in Canada,” he said. 

McPhee said the research team has recent data they are analyzing and that results should be found by the end of the semester.

“If our hypothesis that the decals will deter strikes is true, then we predict that the Sage southern main entrance with the decals will have fewer strikes compared to the northern main entrance of Sage,” she said. 

After the data analysis, SIRT will determine which windows on campus tend to be the most dangerous for migrating birds and the best way to minimize campus bird strikes. 

People can participate in the study by reporting bird-window collisions. If you find a bird carcass near a campus window, email with a photo of the bird and the location at which it was found.