Five students from the Idea Homeschool program were recognized Saturday at the FIRST Lego League competition at Centennial Hall for their work attacking the problem of bird strikes on windows.
“We were really impressed with their questions, their display, and the idea of their invention. They put a lot of thought into it,” said Alexia Keifer, a member of the Juneau Audubon Society. “It’s so unique. Not every day do children want to take on the challenge of bird strikes.”
The students, aged between 10 and 13, asked questions to members of the JAS and the Juneau Raptor Center about the issue, Keifer said. Questions like how bird’s eyes worked and what causes birds to fly into windows helped them form a picture of both the problem and possible solutions.
Bird strikes kill more than 1 billion birds annually in the United States, according to the American Bird Conservancy, said JAS president Gwen Baluss in a phone interview.
“A lot of times, what happens is if it’s dark behind the glass, there’s a mirror effect,” Baluss said. “They don’t see inside the house, they think it’s another tree, and they can fly right through it.”
The problem is particularly prominent in Juneau, where large picture windows in homes are common and many species of birds live, Baluss said. Certain buildings, including the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, are particularly strike-prone.
“What I love is creativity and we’d love to see more ideas out there,” Baluss said. “The more ideas you can get, the more options we have, and we can get more windows treated.”
The group of students combined a pair of ideas that relied on the visual range of birds’ vision and their aversion to flying through small holes.
“The solution was a window film that would prevent shattering with an imprinted fluorescent grid,” Keifer said.
Birds’ wider range of vision allows them to see the grid, simulated with a highlighter by the students. The grids would not be visible to humans. Similar overlays are already available using patterns of dots that the birds can see to warn them off from the window, but the fluorescent pattern is a new twist, Baluss said.
Other bird strike prevention products rely on things like screens, patterns of dots or shapes in regular patterns of no more than four inches apart, or hanging things like used monofilament fishnet in front of one’s windows. Baluss said that many easy options are available at hardware stores.
“We’re just really excited that young people are thinking about this problem and making others more aware of it,” Baluss said.
The JAS and JRC gave the students gifts from the raptor center, including T-shirts and gift cards to Hearthside Books. The students will go on to present their idea at the FIRST Lego League Championship in Anchorage.
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