Libby Hill: Bird-friendly Evanston – working to make a bird-safe city

Smack, splat, smack. The Geico advertisement that aired on TV in December 2021 (Angry Bird Problem? – GEICO Insurance) was supposedly funny. It featured “angry birds” smashing into home windows. The birding community saw the humor but also the trivializing of a tragic wildlife issue. The Geico ad was, to say the least, in bad taste. A protest from the birding community asked Geico to withdraw the ad. 

In the real world, the estimate is that one billion birds are killed annually flying into windows. To birds, the reflections of trees and plants appear to be a safe haven, especially if they are fleeing predators or navigating foggy or stormy weather. This comes at a time when songbird populations have reportedly declined 30% since 1970. That’s three billion fewer birds.

Various cities have adopted building regulations to create a bird-safe community. San Francisco, Toronto, New York and Madison all have passed ordinances that require new home and building construction to be bird-safe. Chicago is integrating such regulations into its sustainability construction standards. Cook County requires new buildings in unincorporated areas to be bird-safe. The U.S. government requires all new federal buildings to be bird-safe.

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