Help understand the trends and patterns of bird window collisions on the UW-Madison campus


The fall 2019 survey will run sept. 16-Nov. 1.

about bird collision corps

A glass-fronted building reflects clear sky. Photo by Kevin Harber

A glass-fronted building reflects clear sky. Photo by Kevin Harber

When you look at a tall, glass-fronted building, what do you see? If you put on a "bird-lens", you would quite likely see more open sky to fly through, more habitat to tuck into, or more moonlight to guide you on your journey. The result is thousands of birds crashing into windows, which is the second highest human-caused death of birds after free-ranging cats.

Thankfully, we do know a little bit about the problem. Tall buildings with lots of reflective glass are a big problem. So are buildings with lights on during the night when birds are migrating. But there is still much to learn. For example, the role of vegetation and the angle and design of glass-fronted facades are still largely unknown. 

The Bird Collision Corps is a Madison, WI-based citizen science project in its second year that works with volunteers who help study what leads to bird deaths caused by window strikes. To do so, the Bird Collision Corps is working with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dane County’s Wildlife Center, and American Bird Conservancy to document bird strikes at campus buildings during spring and fall migration. 

How does the program work?

A sparrow killed by a window strike. Photo by Liz Hargreaves

A sparrow killed by a window strike. Photo by Liz Hargreaves

Your help is needed! Program partners have identified 13 high-priority buildings on the UW-Madison campus to monitor for bird strikes. These buildings were monitored during the spring and fall 2018 surveys, and some found significant bird mortality. We will continue to collect data on this important issue and build a solid case for change to make the UW-Madison campus friendlier for birds and share our results with the broader community.

TIME FRAME: Volunteers sign up to monitor a sector of campus that includes at least two of these buildings between Sept. 16 and Nov. 1. You can sign up for at least two shifts per week, and we ask you to commit to surveying your sector on those days every week (give or take!) until the survey period ends.

WEEKLY COMMITMENT: We ask that volunteers sign up for a minimum of two shifts per week. Surveying your sector will likely take between 45-90 minutes per survey, and you can choose to do your survey between dawn-8:00 a.m. or 9:00-11:00 a.m. You may survey your buildings individually, or form a team of 2-3 individuals who will split up your weeks or survey duties.

TRAINING: Volunteers will receive training and resources for completing the surveys and handling injured or killed birds. No expertise in bird ID or handling is required! We will offer in person trainings (Sept. 13 at 12pm or Sept. 15 at 2pm). Online training will be available, but is not encouraged (in person training is much more valuable!).

PROCESS: Bird Collision Corps participants will look for birds on the ground and in the vegetation around their assigned buildings that have been killed or stunned by impact with the building. Recording detailed documentation on these events is very important - where the bird was found, day, time, weather, and other information using the iNaturalist smartphone app. Each survey should take approximately 1 to 1.5 hours (total weekly commitment: 2 to 3 hours). Participants will deliver deceased birds to program organizers, and will receive training on dealing with stunned or injured birds.

Data collected through this program will be analyzed and shared with the UW-Madison facilities community, researchers, and the general public in an effort to make the campus a more bird-friendly place and advance our broader knowledge of causes and solutions to the window strike problem.

 Notes and participant requirements:

A young junco recovers from a window strike. Photo by Tyler Karaszewski

A young junco recovers from a window strike. Photo by Tyler Karaszewski

  • No experience is necessary! We will host training sessions to teach participants about the program's goals, surveying techniques, how to document observations, and how to handle birds found during surveys.

  • Volunteers will use the iNaturalist app on a smartphone to enter data. Part of the training involves how to use the app.

  • Participants should have their own transportation to campus. Parking is limited and can be tricky on campus. However, bus routes and bike accessibility are plentiful!

  • Each campus sector will ideally have coverage 7-days-per-week through the combination of volunteers monitoring those buildings.

  • Volunteers should be able to commit to surveying their assigned sector on the days/times you registered for every week between Sept. 16 and Nov. 1. We ask volunteers to sign up for TWO shifts each week. If you cannot survey, no problem! Subs are available.

Banner photo by Ivan Lian