The Madison Common Council has unanimously adopted Wisconsin’s first bird-friendly building ordinance. The city-wide ordinance will require large construction and expansion projects to use modern bird-safe strategies and materials that allow birds to see glass. The new requirements, drawn up with input from American Bird Conservancy, are expected to dramatically reduce bird mortalities. The ordinance goes into effect Oct. 1, 2020.
“The well-being of birds and people in Wisconsin are very intertwined, from the economic benefits of tourism and birdwatching to free services like pest control and pollination,” says Matt Reetz, executive director of Madison Audubon, one of the organizations that advocated for the ordinance. “We really must do what we can to protect birds, and this is a straightforward and important step in doing so. I’m proud of our city for taking this step.”
The ordinance, adopted Aug. 4, 2020, was introduced by Alds. Marsha Rummel and Keith Furman and drafted by city staff in consultation with planners from other cities that have implemented similar bird-friendly standards.
A coalition of local environmental groups studying the bird-collision problem also provided strong support for the ordinance. This group, called the Bird Collision Corps, is coordinated by Madison Audubon, the UW-Madison’s Facilities Planning and Management Department, the university's Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, the Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center, and American Bird Conservancy.
“The City of Madison’s unanimous adoption of bird-friendly building standards puts it at the front of a growing movement of communities that are doing their part to save the nearly a billion birds that die after colliding with glass in the United States each year,” said Bryan Lenz, American Bird Conservancy’s glass collisions program manager.
Lenz has been involved in the Bird Collision Corps and development of the Madison ordinance. “Not to mention that saving birds is the right thing to do, both ethically and for a healthy environment,” he added. Lenz also chairs the board for Bird City Wisconsin, which has recognized some 110 communities in the state, including Madison, for their bird-conservation efforts. Madison is a High-Flyer.
Research shows that residences that are 1 to 3 stories tall account for 43.6 percent of collision-related fatalities, while 56.3 percent of collisions happen at low-rise buildings (4 to 11 floors). Those two types of buildings account for most of Madison’s cityscape. Only 0.1 percent of bird deaths happen after collisions with buildings 12 stories or higher.
This article was adapted from Facility Executive magazine.
Read Madison's Bird-Safe Glass Ordinance.
First Bird-Friendly Building Ordinance in Wisconsin Passed (Facility Executive, Aug. 13, 2020).
New York City Passes a Landmark Bill to Make More Buildings Bird-Friendly (Audubon, Dec. 10, 2019)
Bird City Helps Bucks Open the World’s First Bird-Friendly Arena, Oct. 17, 2018
Bird–building collisions in the United States: Estimates of annual Mortality and Species Vulnerability (The Condor, Jan. 2, 2014)
San Francisco Mayor Approves New Standards for Bird-Safe Buildings (ABC, Oct. 11, 2011)