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Collision Hazards

Window Collisions

In Brief

Between 365 and 988 million birds are killed each year in the United States when they hit windows, making windows one of the most serious and pervasive threats to bird populations. Join Tucson Audubon to make your home and business bird friendly, and to advocate for proactive measures, science-based approaches and policies to address this growing threat.

Summary

Does this scenario sound familiar? Imagine you are sitting at home enjoying your day when suddenly—THUMP!—you cringe at the sound of an unlucky bird hitting your window. Sadly, birds often collide with windows because they do not detect the windows as a barrier, or see the reflection of the surrounding environment in the glass and mistake it for a clear flight path.

Between 365 and 988 million birds are killed each year in the United States when they hit windows, making windows one of the most serious and pervasive threats to bird populations. Backyard birds and migratory birds are the most frequent victims of window collisions. Both common and declining species are impacted. To address this threat, Tucson Audubon advocates for proactive measures, science-based approaches and policies.

What We Do

  • Tucson Audubon encourages the use of effective bird collision deterrent technologies in our homes and businesses. For example, Tucson Audubon’s Nature Shop carries WindowAlert decals which, when used according to specifications, have been found effective in preventing collisions. The decals are minimally visible from the inside, but reflect ultraviolet light, giving birds a visual cue to steer clear of windows. A range of other products found effective by the American Bird Conservancy must be ordered directly from manufacturers.
  • On the policy front, Tucson Audubon advocates for policies that incentivize, and in some cases require, effective measures to deter and minimize window collisions.
  • Please inform us if you have identified a home or business location where collisions are occurring regularly. We may be able to help you identify solutions!

Background

Windows allow us to see the outdoors while in the comfort of our homes and businesses, and they allow natural light, reducing the need for electric lights during the day. These amenities are balanced against the fact that windows are responsible for as much as 25 percent of heating and cooling costs attributed to energy efficiency loss, and that they pose one of the leading threats our flying feathered friends.

Since the advent of modern construction that utilizes glass, windows have been a well-documented hazard and source of mortality for birds. Unfortunately, between 365 and 988 million birds are killed each year in the United States when they hit windows, making windows one of the most serious and pervasive threats to bird populations.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Migratory Bird Program, an estimated 56 percent of mortality occurs at low-rise (i.e., one to three story) buildings, 44 percent at urban and rural residences, and less than 1 percent at high rises. Thankfully, there are solutions to this growing problem, both in our homes and businesses.

The USFWS’s Conservation Measures, the American Bird Conservancy’s (ABCs) Glass Collisions Program and the Bird-safe Glass Foundation provide comprehensive resources to address this threat. ABC’s website covers eighteen tested and proven products for existing and new windows, for every size and shape imaginable and for every budget. Some products are for new construction while others are for residential use. Each of these products has earned a rating of “effective” or “highly effective” at deterring bird collisions.

Tucson Audubon encourages you and your business to use these products, especially for windows where you have found dead or stunned birds or marks that suggest that an impact has taken place. Even if you have never found dead birds, your windows may still be killing them; injured birds often fly or walk away after a collision, only to succumb to their injuries or scavengers in another location.

Take Action!

Updates

Resources

Letters

Sign on letter supporting legislation for federal buildings

Transmission / Distribution Lines

In Brief

Transmission lines are an essential component of our energy infrastructure. However, transmission lines also have a wide range of direct and indirect environmental impacts upon birds, wildlife and human communities. Join Tucson Audubon to advocate for careful siting to avoid areas of unique biological wealth, and for mitigation measures that can avert unnecessary bird mortality.

Summary

Transmission lines are an essential component of our energy infrastructure. Transmission lines have a wide range of direct and indirect environmental impacts, including collisions and electrocutions that cause direct mortality to birds. For this reason, proposed powerlines should be sited to avoid bird migration corridors and other sensitive habitats. Existing powerlines should be continually monitored and retrofitted to protect avian species based upon the best available science and established best practices.

Careful planning is critical because major powerlines often become corridors for other co-located infrastructure; they can enable new energy and other development proposals, and can also become corridors for invasive species and unauthorized motorized vehicle use.

Tucson Audubon advocates for careful siting of transmission lines to avoid impacts to birds, migration / movement corridors and areas of unique biological wealth. In some cases, Tucson Audubon opposes transmission lines if they are proposed to be built through sensitive habitats and conservation areas.

What We Do

  • Tucson Audubon advocates for transparent disclosure of the purpose and need, and environmental impacts associated with proposed powerlines.
  • Tucson Audubon tracks and engages in public processes for transmission proposals in our focal region.
  • Tucson Audubon advocates for careful siting of transmission lines to avoid impacts to birds, migration / movement corridors and areas of unique biological wealth. We advocate for maximal avoidance, minimization and mitigation of impacts.
  • Tucson Audubon works with partner conservation organizations to oppose new powerlines that would have unacceptable negative impacts upon Important Bird Areas and areas of unique biological wealth.
  • Tucson Audubon works to educate the public and decision makers about the impacts of transmission lines and ways these impacts can be avoided and lessened through the application of the best available science, technology and best practices.

Background

Transmission lines and their associated infrastructure are an essential component of our electrical grid. Transmission allows us to deliver electrons from generation sources across great distances to consumers, or “load centers”. However, the longer the lines are, the more electrons are lost to heat dissipation, and the more wildlife habitat is likely to be bisected. Thus the purpose, need and economic viability of new powerlines should be transparently justified and proven prior to permitting and construction.

A 2014 study by Loss et al estimated that between 12 and 64 million birds are killed each year at U.S. power lines, with between 8 and 57 million birds killed by collision and between 0.9 and 11.6 million birds killed by electrocution. The number of birds that perish each year due to powerline collisions and electrocutions is difficult to accurately quantify because of a general lack of research and monitoring, and because injured birds often fly or walk away after a collision, only to succumb to their injuries or scavengers in another location.

Collisions

Many avian species find power lines and towers difficult to perceive and are therefore at risk for deadly collisions. Larger-bodied migratory birds such as Sandhill Cranes, Whooping Cranes and Snow Geese are particularly susceptible. The Sandhill Crane’s circling, cumbersome flight patterns and flocking behavior are one variable that increases their collision risk. In addition, poor visibility associated with inclimate weather conditions has been documented to increase the likelihood of collision events. Collisions can be avoided or reduced by proper siting, and by using bird diverters and powerline markers, which can help birds to see and thus navigate around them.

Electrocutions

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the majority of bird electrocutions occur on smaller distribution lines and poles as compared to larger transmission lines. This is because conductors on distribution lines are located closer together (as compared to larger transmission lines), which increases the likelihood of electrocution. Electrocution happens when birds touch two energized components, or both an energized component and a grounded component. Larger transmission lines also cause bird electrocutions, but such incidents are thought to occur more rarely. The FWS acknowledges there is a lack of data to evaluate the true scale of this problem.

Related Topics

  • Proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Line
  • Article in Jan-March 2017 Vermillion Flycatcher : Tucson Electric Power’s Raptor Protection Program: Partnering with University of Arizona to Watch Out for Our Wild Birds.

External Resources

Proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Line

In Brief

A major new 515 mile-long transmission corridor is proposed from New Mexico to Arizona across sensitive military testing grounds, conservation lands and areas of unique biological wealth, including the unique and fragile San Pedro River Valley.  Join Tucson Audubon in our opposition to this poorly conceived proposal.

Summary

The SunZia Southwest Transmission project proposes two new parallel 500 kV transmission lines across 515 miles from Lincoln County, New Mexico, to Pinal County, Arizona. In Arizona, SunZia would cross the San Pedro River near Benson and then head north, opening up an entirely new 30-mile-long infrastructure corridor on the west side of the river valley, an area of unique biological wealth.

This proposal would adversely impact mitigation lands protected by Pima County as part of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. Tucson Audubon is opposed to SunZia because our research indicates there is not a demonstrated need for it, and the negative impacts to important conservation lands and bird life far outweigh the project’s purported benefits.

What We Do

  • Tucson Audubon educates the public and decision makers regarding the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of major transmission lines on birds, wildlife habitat and human communities.
  • Tucson Audubon promotes the responsible siting of new transmission lines, including ensuring a demonstrated purpose and need; siting new power lines along existing linear infrastructure; and avoiding ecologically sensitive areas and bird migration corridors.
  • Tucson Audubon engages in public processes related to siting and permitting transmission lines affecting Important Bird Areas and other areas of unique biological wealth.
  • Tucson Audubon promotes the use of the best available science and technology to avoid, minimize and adequately mitigate for deleterious impacts to birds and the environment.
  • Tucson Audubon assessed the potential environmental impacts of the SunZia proposal, and determined it to be incompatible with key conservation lands and Important Bird Areas. Tucson Audubon has registered its strong opposition to the project as currently conceived through comments submitted during the Arizona Line Siting Committee hearings and the Arizona Corporation Commission’s public hearings.

Background

Position Letters and Comments

Updates

  • March 13, 2016, Intervenor Peter T. Else submitted an application for a re-hearing / review to the Arizona Corporation Commission.
  • February 3rd, 2016, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved SunZia’s Certificate of Environmental Compatibility by a narrow vote of 3-2. Chairman Doug Little voted against approving the certificate, and provided a compelling dissent. In his dissent Little stated, “I am extremely disappointed in the outcome of this decision and believe there were better alternative routes with significantly less environmental impacts that unfortunately were not approved. . . I am truly saddened that one of the crown jewels of Arizona’s unspoiled wilderness will be irreparably harmed by this decision.”
  • November 19, 2015, the Arizona Corporation Commission Line Siting Committee voted 8-0 (1 abstention) to issue SunZia a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility. Despite his vote to approve, Line Siting Committee Chairman Tom Chenal expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed route: “I think this is a perfect example of the effort to find the least worst decision . . . The jewel, the San Pedro River Valley, is pristine. That tour that we took, it was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. And my heart just breaks that, you know, there is going to be a transmission line that’s going through there.”
  • Jan 23rd, 2015: The BLM released its Record of Decision (ROD) on the SunZia project.

External Resources

 

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