How to Reduce Bird-Building Collisions – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

How to Reduce Bird-Building Collisions

In an article published this summer, Associate Professor of Biology Brad Cosentino and his coauthors detail new research that could mitigate the fatal collisions with buildings that kills as many as one billion birds each year.

The photo above of a hermit thrush was taken by Cosentino's research colleague, Augustana College Professor of Biology Steve Hager.
The photo above of a hermit thrush was taken by Cosentino’s research colleague, Augustana College Professor of Biology Steve Hager.

In “Correlates of bird collisions with buildings across three North American countries,” the authors write that the “coordinated, continent‐wide study provides new insight into the species most vulnerable to building collisions, making them potentially in greatest need of conservation attention to reduce collisions.”

The article — which was published in Conservation Biology and has been featured on the websites of the Scientific American, the Audubon Society and The Wildlife Societyexplains that “efforts to reduce collisions would benefit from studies conducted at large spatial scales across multiple study sites, with standardized methods, and with consideration of species‐ and life history‐related variation and correlates of collisions.”

The study aggregates data from 40 sites across North America and estimates the “collision vulnerability” for 40 bird species. Analysis of the data revealed that building size and glass area correlated with collisions for five of eight species “with enough observations to analyze independently,” while vegetation around buildings influenced collisions for only one of those eight species.

Birds’ life history also predicted collisions, the authors found, with numbers of collisions greatest for migratory, insectivorous, and woodland‐inhabiting species.

HWS was one of the 40 sampling locations that provided data for the study. Lauren Walter ’16, now a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University, completed an independent study on the project during her undergraduate studies at HWS.

A member of the faculty at HWS since 2012, Cosentino has published more than two dozen articles in peer-reviewed journals, including Biological ConservationMolecular Ecology and Animal Behavior. Exploring the ecological and evolutionary responses of wildlife to environmental change, his research has a particular interest in understanding how human land use affects animal movements. Cosentino is the recipient of grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture. He holds a B.A. from Augustana College and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.