Cosentino Research Has National Implications - Hobart and William Smith Colleges
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Cosentino Research Has National Implications

A recent article co-written by Assistant Professor of Biology Bradley Cosentino is making waves in the national dialogue over bird-window collisions. Originally published in the journal Biological Conservation, the article was referenced in an article on the Audubon website titled “Proposed Federal Law Could Save Countless Birds From Death by Glass.”

Cosentino’s article, co-written with Professor of Biology Stephen Hager from Augustana College and others, discusses their in-depth study of bird deaths due to window collisions, with data from 40 college campuses across North America. It is estimated that more than one billion birds are killed each year in such collisions, and now federal legislation has been proposed that could cause a drop in that rate.

The Audubon article discusses a bill titled “Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act of 2017,” introduced earlier this year by Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois. The legislation is currently in committee review.

“The proposal is to limit the surface area of glass on new federal construction,” says Cosentino. “Glass area is the most consistent factor driving the frequency of collisions. Moreover, the bill would require certain types of materials on glass that could reduce collision frequency.”

But, says Cosentino, there’s not a lot of good research on the effectiveness of such mitigation strategies. Covering windows with shutters or shades can be effective, but these approaches are unlikely to win fans because few want to keep their windows covered. The bill suggests the use of patterned or UV-reflective glass but Cosentino isn’t convinced this would help.

“There’s some experimental evidence showing that vertical cords hung in front of windows reduces collisions,” he says. “But we simply don’t have evidence for the effectiveness of fritted or UV-reflective glass.”

Although more research needs to be done, Cosentino believes the bill is a good first step. He also points to the work of organizations such as Cornell, whose BirdCast website helps homeowners find real-time information on when migratory birds are in their area. “Most of the mortalities we see are migrants, and collisions seem to peak in frequency during the fall and spring migration seasons,” he says.

Moving forward, Cosentino and his team are exploring ways in which the consortium of colleges from the study could help determine effective methods. One possible experiment might involve setting up adjacent windows in campus buildings with different types of deterrents—for example, fitting one window with UV glass and using fritted glass on the one next to it. “We’d have a powerful experiment if we could do this at, say, five buildings at each of 20 campuses,” he says.

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