Hayley Wilson stands in a field feeding a chickadee from her hand.
U of G graduate student Hayley Wilson initiated Bird Safe Guelph.

A University of Guelph student group has started an ambitious project intended to help protect countless birds from injury or death resulting from collisions with window glass.

With a $2,000 start-up grant from World Wildlife Federation (WWF) Canada and the non-profit organization Chantiers jeunesse, Bird Safe Guelph is providing 140 kits to Guelph and area households to bird-proof the windows in their homes. All the available kits had been ordered within a few days of the program’s launch in December.

The kits provide a pattern of dots or squares that homeowners can apply to make windows more visible to birds. One of the two varieties of kits offered is a window tape application produced by the organization Feather Friendly; the other is a marker for drawing patterns on windows by hand. Kits will be mailed out once Ontario’s provincewide shutdown ends.

Tens of millions of birds are killed or seriously injured each year in Canada after flying into windows, said U of G student Hayley Wilson, organizer of Bird Safe Guelph. A PhD student in the Department of Integrative Biology, she studies songbird physiology and fitness. The Bird Safe Guelph team is made up of 11 students, supported by the University’s Sustainability Office.

Photo shows a large window with white dots in a grid pattern
The window of a home with a bird-proof kit installed

“Several of us are in graduate school and studying birds,” Wilson said. “We happen to be bird lovers and in the field of conservation. We want to make a difference in our community and our world. Addressing the serious issue of bird-window collisions was something important to us.”

Birds cannot see glass, Wilson said. Windows are always hazardous to them, but more collisions happen during migration. Certain reflections in glass, like sky or trees, mimic birds’ natural environments. About 25 million birds of all kinds die after collisions with windows each year in Canada, with countless others injured, she said.

“Bird Safe Guelph provides households with kits that prevent collisions,” Wilson said. “It was something that people could easily get involved with. An at-home transformation is relatively inexpensive and easy, taking a few minutes of your time. People can really feel like they are making a difference in their own community and protecting local bird species.”

Wilson said the group, with the assistance of the Sustainability Office, is looking into ways to begin bird-proofing windows on the U of G campus. She said local citizens care deeply about birds and are willing to take steps to protect them.

“At this point, it’s a matter of finding more funding to extend the project. We are looking to apply for more grants in the future, as well as put a call out for donations and possibly start fundraising events.”

Photos shows measuring tape, a pamphlet and tape used on windows
Feather Friendly makes bird-proofing kits for residential and commercial windows

Last fall, the Sustainability Office partnered with WWF Canada to become a Living Planet@Campus partner. The office publicized applications for WWF’s Eco-Leadership Journey program, which focuses on providing funding to youth-led biodiversity conservation projects.

Wilson applied and successfully received funding.

“We’ve been so impressed by the students’ work leading this initiative and the impact they have had so far,” said Samantha Casey, sustainability coordinator in the Sustainability Office. “Since then, we have been assisting with providing guidance and support to Hayley and her team of fellow students. We will also be working collaboratively with these students to develop a plan to bring this initiative and discussion into campus operations over the coming months.”

Last year, the office developed the Sustainability Ambassador program to provide environmental leadership opportunities for U of G students.

“We’ve seen great success and interest in this program since its launch,” Casey said. “It works as an incubator for student-led initiatives that advance sustainability on campus and in the Guelph community.”


Hayley Wilson