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Birds and the Built Environment: The Impacts of Architecture, Structures, and Green Spaces on Avian Populations in the United States // Judy Bowes 

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Abstract: The history of modern bird conservation in the United States built environments starts with the success story of the peregrine falcon in the 1970s. Architecture was crucial to the recovery of this once-endangered bird. Architecture and designed green spaces also have been beneficial to the many other species that have successfully adapted to environments dominated by people. In turn, people have valued the enlivening, beneficial presence of birds in cities, parks, neighborhoods, and farms. This history demonstrates that birds are integral to the built environment. However, the built environment can also cause great harm to birds. Bird building collisions are one of the leading anthropogenic threats to birds, killing 365-998 million birds a year in the United States. Glass, lighting, and landscape elements contribute to this enormous loss. Solar and wind energy sources and infrastructure and communication towers also present significant hazards. These dangers in the built environment will have long term impacts on the overall population of birds in the United States and have contributed to a net loss of 29% of the bird population in North America since 1970. Mitigating the threats facing urban resident birds and migrating bird populations in the built environment depends on a clear understanding of birds as integral and essential to our built environment, a comprehensive assessment of built-environment threats birds face, a balanced approach to implementing effective collision mitigating design strategies, and development of regulations, policies and educational resources related to bird preservation in built environments. Building first on a history of birds and architecture, this thesis seeks to provide designers and architects with knowledge about how birds interact with the built environment, a critical assessment of design strategies and architecture-specific policies that benefit urban birds, and proposals for making built environments more amenable to birds through design, policy, and education.

Image: ©Judy Bowes

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