Beechwood Farms program offers ways to protect birds

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

There's a lot to consider when designing a new home, from windows and doors to chimneys and more.

Probably not too much weight is given to how the choices affect the wildlife nearby.

Bird enthusiasts at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel are hoping to change that.

Residents can attend a workshop next week to learn how to make homes and offices more bird-friendly.

“Birds fly into windows all the time and it's becoming more of a problem,” said Rachel Handel, Beechwood Farms spokeswoman. “We have experts working to find solutions that allow people and birds to co-exist better and more safely.”

The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, headquartered at Beechwood, will host a workshop at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 16 to offer tips on removing bird threats. Specifically, innovations in bird-safe glass will be the topic. The free program will be at the Beechwood complex along Dorseyville Road in Fox Chapel.

“Advances in Bird-Friendly Building Design” is hosted by American Bird Conservancy Bird Collision Campaign Manager Dr. Christine Sheppard.

It is part of an initiative launched this fall, “Audubon@Work,” aimed at helping homeowners, developers and architects to make buildings a place where people and birds can thrive.

“Birds face significant threats in our ever-growing urbanized landscape,” said Audubon Development Associate Chris Kubiak, adding that a substantial number of birds die each year because of collisions with man-made structures.

“Studies have suggested a range of 100 million to 1 billion birds being killed overall in the U.S. each year,” Kubiak said, citing other contributors such as loss of habitat, pollution and predators.

Humans can do their part in reducing that number, Kubiak said.

There are two primary threats — glass and light pollution — that can be considered.

Glass can be invisible to birds so the type of glass used and the location of trees and vegetation is important.

“Courtyards and open pathways can be death traps, especially if they are heavily planted,” Kubiak said. “Reflective glass is often used to make a building blend into an area by mirroring its surroundings. If trees are planted nearby, they look as though they are unobstructed pathways in which to fly, which often leads to fatal collisions.”

Handel said another leading cause of bird mortality is excessive light pollution and poorly-sited lighting. Birds are drawn at night to the glow of overnight lights, she said.

“They often flutter around until they drop from exhaustion or collide with the buildings,” Handel said.

Handel encourages residents to attend the workshop to learn more about steps being taken to remedy bird issues. She said many people are interested in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) construction, which now incorporates bird-friendly architecture into its guidelines.

To register, call 412-963-6100.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or

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