Bird Call: Dominique Waddoup’s Mission is to Save ThemAugust 31st, 2022 by Chris Collier
As many as one billion birds die each year from building collisions. So says the National Audubon Society, an American non-profit environmental organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats. The organization says collision-based fatalities account for 2 to 9% percent of all birds in North America in any given year, making “building strikes second only to feral and free-roaming cats as a source of human-caused avian mortality in the United States.” Daytime crashes result from birds mistaking reflections of open skies or nearby vegetation for the real thing.
For biologist Dominique Waddoup, founder and CEO of Austria’s BirdShades, window film is a solution to the deadly avian massacre.
“Our mission is to save birds; to make the sky a safe place for birds to fly,” Waddoup says. “Dying from window collisions is a needless death.”
Studies found steep death tolls for birds striking large glassy buildings, specifically those in “less urbanized pockets of North America that tend to host more migratory birds,” the National Audubon Society adds. Working with co-founder and material science expert Christoph Cerny, Waddoup aims to turn the tide. She witnessed the disturbing trend firsthand when studying animal behavior and biology at The University of Graz in Austria.
“At my university, there was a glass corridor with lots of bird-window collisions,” Waddoup says. “I wanted to find a solution because there were so many birds [crashing] within two months. I went to the university to take action, but they wouldn’t accept any of the visible solutions because it was a very architectural, fancy glass corridor.”
Waddoup began prototyping BirdShades in 2016, later founding the company in 2019. Waddoup and Cerny developed an adhesive film designed to be applied to window glass. It’s advertised as invisible to humans, but its ultraviolet-reflective nature appears as a pattern to birds.
“I wanted to give people the ability to conserve nature at their doorstep or their window because glass has such a big impact,” Waddoup says. “It’s everywhere now.”
BirdShades currently sells its first large-scale production to interested pilot customers. The company is not yet ready to ship to private households, but early research suggests a successful launch.
A scholarly article dubbed Ultraviolet-reflective film applied to windows reduces the likelihood of collisions for two species of songbird analyzes BirdShades’ trials. Authored by John Swaddle, Lauren Emerson, Robin Thady and Timothy Boycott, the paper found that BirdShades-treated windows reduced the likelihood of window collisions by 75 to 90% in certain tests. The group also says the company’s improved experimental methodology significantly contributes to the world of bird safety.
Waddoup is correct—glass is everywhere. USGlass magazine’s USGNN eNewsletter reported on storm, lights and glass leading to mass bird deaths at the World Trade Center Complex in September 2021.
“Glass in the built environment is always dangerous to birds and unfortunately, birds are killed by collisions with glass every day. When bad weather brings birds down and lights bring them in, danger and mortality are increased,” says Christine Sheppard, American Bird Conservancy’s Bird Collisions campaign director.
“Turning off unnecessary lights can prevent bird deaths,” Sheppard adds. “The problem here was a ‘perfect storm’ — high numbers of birds aloft, a storm bringing them close to the built environment, lights preventing them from navigating. And then glass waiting for them first thing in the morning.”