Wednesday, January 8, 2020

New York City Passes Bird-Friendly Building Standards Law

Blackpoll Warblers are among the many neotropical songbirds and other species that migrate through New York during spring and fall (photo by Paul Konrad).

Bird-safe materials that greatly reduce collision risks for migratory birds will now be required for construction of new buildings and major renovations to existing buildings that include modifying existing glass – and it applies to construction across the city’s five boroughs. The New York City Council recently approved Initiative 1482B, a new policy that requires materials used in new buildings meet bird-friendly standards that greatly reduce collision risks to birds, especially migrating birds.

Dr. Jill Deppe, senior director of Audubon’s Migratory Bird Initiative responded: “New York’s world famous skyline is positioned right in the middle of an incredibly important migration pathway, and this critical legislation will now make that journey a little safer for millions of migrating birds.”

Birds like Blackpoll Warblers fly for three days straight across the Atlantic Ocean between their South American wintering range to North America, but a glass window in New York City is too often the deadliest part of their migratory flights, added Dr. Deppe. “This is a great day for migratory birds and all who care for them. Bravo to New York City Audubon and their partners for setting the bar on bird-friendly building policy.”

This legislation will be the most broad-reaching bird-friendly building policy in the country to date. The New York City Council worked directly with New York City Audubon, the American Bird Conservancy, the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Bird-safe Buildings Alliance, and architects representing FXCollaborative and Ennead Architects.

“This bill is a compromise forged by our diverse consortium, which wrestled with and reconciled competing interests of many sorts – design, light, height, use, location, cost, and bird mortality. It’s a huge leap forward for long-term conservation,” said Kathryn Heintz, New York City Audubon’s executive director. “It will reduce collisions and save migratory birds whose numbers are declining dramatically. As a whole community, we must do better for the future, better for the sustainability of urban living, and better for the health of both birds and people.”

“Collisions with buildings are one of the greatest threats to birds, and one of the most preventable threats,” said Ana Paula Tavares, executive director of Audubon New York. “North America has lost nearly 3 billion since 1970 and we must make every effort to create a safer future for New York state’s wildlife. Audubon is thrilled that the New York City Council has set this precedent for the rest of the nation to help reduce or eliminate mortality from collisions.”

NYC Audubon’s efforts are part of Audubon’s nationwide Bird-Friendly Communities work to make our communities better – and safer – for birds. These conservation programs protect and help restore bird populations in America’s cities and towns. In environments that are primarily defined by human infrastructure (that is, by homes, buildings, roads, pavement, lawns, industrial complexes, etc.), birds need food, cover, safe passage, and places to raise young. Communities that are bird-friendly meet those needs for birds through individual and collective actions by community members and leaders – actions that also contribute to more sustainable and healthy human societies.

Hooray for the vision of the New York City Council and all the partners who helped take this monumental first step in America’s largest city. How do your state’s cities measure up?

For more information about Audubon’s nationwide Bird-Friendly Communities work, please refer to

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