Bird-Strike Protocol

Within the first months of summer, we have set a foundation for future bird-strike assessment and protocols.

First, a little background information. Our research focuses on the assessment and prevention of bird-window collisions (a.k.a bird-strike) at William and Mary Hall. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many birds, foreign and native to campus, strike the Hall’s large glass windows throughout the year. Bird-strike is unfortunately a common occurrence; William and Mary Hall is not the only building in the world to cause substantial bird death – hell, it’s not even the only one on campus. Researchers estimate that bird-strike incidents cause nearly a billion accidental bird deaths every year. To combat bird-strike, we are testing a combinations of different methods – visual and audio – to warn and deter birds from colliding with windows. Our on-campus research has implications that extend far beyond the William and Mary community.

The first step in our project was to set up a protocol for bird-strike assessment.


Daily surveys will be conducted at dawn, Monday through Friday. The surveyor will walk clockwise around the perimeter of the building (William and Mary Hall), starting at the North-East Corner. The starting location will rotate each morning in a daily sequence: North-East, South-East, South-West, North-West. The surveyor will record all bird carcasses on the ground – including pavement, stairs, nearby bushes, and bare ground – within 5 meters of the building. It is assumed that any bird carcasses within 5 meters of the building are a result of bird-window collision. Bird carcasses will be identified by their species, either on site or by photograph. In addition, the time, date, and location of each bird carcass will be recorded. The survey will be repeated 2 hours and 4 hours after the dawn survey. We will also put up signs at the building to encourage others to report bird strike to us. This will include a request for a photo, location, and time (as above). In addition to the daily surveys, two Bestguarder Motion-activated cameras will be placed by each large windowed surface of William and Mary Hall. The cameras will be set across from each other – both 2.5 meters high – and will face the same window. One camera will be set to picture mode, and the other, video mode. Camera footage will be collected and reviewed each evening at 6pm. It is also assumed that the presence of scavengers may affect our measurements of bird-strike frequencies.


Basically, we set up cameras around William and Mary Hall, that would (hopefully) record each incident of bird-strike. In addition to the motion-activated cameras, I surveyed the perimeter of the Hall three times a day: 5:15 AM, 7:15 AM, and 9:15AM.  Any bird carcass found is recorded by it’s location, time, and date.  And that’s what I spent most of my time doing in Williamsburg.

What’s next? The protocol should be continued throughout the school year hopefully – the span of the project couldn’t be limited to just a summer. But in addition to the protocol, I’ll be researching the business side of bird-safe buildings. More specifically, I will be looking into companies that manufacture reflective UV stickers that are placed on windows in order to reduce bird-strike.

I’m gonna start that up right now!

-Cam Copeland



  1. This is an incredibly interesting project! As an avid birder, I have been aware of the major issue windows can cause for birds for a while. I think it is great that you are cataloging these incidents for a building on campus – this information will definitely help us make the school more bird-friendly! If you are interested, the documentary “The Messenger” did a very good job of quantifying this and other issues facing birds today. I also think your use of cameras is a particularly good idea, as it may pick up strikes that don’t cause instant mortality. Can’t wait to hear more about your project as it unfolds! I will be curious to see if the number of bird deaths goes up as the migration period begins in late summer/fall.

  2. rlsmith01 says:

    I think it’s super cool that the research you’re doing has a very tangible impact on campus. I was wondering if you know of other buildings or cities in general that are working toward developing similar visual/audio bird safety features. Is this a widespread effort worldwide or is it still very much concentrated in and around research institutions? Also, at the end you mentioned researching the business side. What does that entail, and how have you been working toward that since this post? Overall, congrats on doing your part to save the birds!

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