Bird Safety Window Film Keeps Birds in the Air Where They Belong

February 14, 2023

What would New York be without birds? Photo by Johnell Pannell on Unsplash

Did you know that one billion birds are killed in collisions with glass each year?

NYC Audubon estimates that in New York City, between 90,000 and 230,000 birds are killed each year. That’s a large impact not only to our feathered friends, but to biodiversity on the whole.

At Layr, we know this doesn’t have to be the case. Birds can’t advocate for themselves but we can help; Bird safety film protects birds’ lives and helps NYC property owners avoid fines.

Many owners worry about how bird film affects the aesthetics of their glass. Let’s clear something up early on: window film like Bird Divert is only visible to birds. You can keep your view, be in compliance with local laws, and save lives.

In this post, we’ll explain all about bird film: what NYC laws require, how it works, how it looks, and product specs. After reading, you’ll be ready to do your part and keep the skies safe.

Local Law 15

In December 2019, the New York City Council passed what would become Local Law 15. This was a huge victory for the birds and is the most important bird-friendly legislation in the United States.

This law changed the NYC building code; bird-friendly glazing materials are now required in new or significantly altered construction projects. Owners need to use these materials on facades of up to 75 feet above grade. If new buildings don’t use bird-safe materials, hefty fines are assessed.

For qualifying buildings a current construction, there are 2 ways to comply.

  1. Install custom, OEM bird-friendly glazing. Essentially, you can buy new laminated glass that includes a custom layer of bird film or patterned UV glass. Custom OEM laminated glass is an impressive building material, with additional energy efficiency and security characteristics, along with Local Law 15 compliance.
  2. Install normal (energy code compliant) glass and add a layer of bird film on the outside. We install bird friendly window film either onsite or in the glazing contractor’s shop.

Every building is different, yet there are a variety of reasons clients have us install bird-safety film over new glass (option 2.) When they choose the window film over OEM glass, they take into account multiple factors, including

  • project cost,
  • Lead time,
  • weight,
  • structural load,
  • the potential optionality in the future.

Whichever option you choose, bird-safety glass has the same functionality as the film.

How does bird-safety film work?

Birds see the world differently than people. They have incredibly sharp vision, but lack depth perception. Birds can’t distinguish the glass of skyscrapers from the sky and sometimes assume that their reflection is that of another bird. It’s a deadly mistake.

A bird’s eye view. On the left, What we see looking into a window coated with Bird Divert film. On the right is a bird’s perspective on that same window that allows them to see the danger ahead.

To rate as bird-friendly, glass is tested for whether it deters birds from flying into it. In bird-safety film and glass, we score each product for a threat factor to birds. In short, higher threat factors (untreated glass) mean more birds collide into the glass. Lower threat factors mean the birds steer clear and stay safe.

Per Local Law 15 in NYC, bird-friendly materials have a threat factor of 25 or lower.

How does bird-safety film look?

Bird-safety film and windows are analogous to distraction markers on glass walls or doors in modern offices. But unlike distraction markers, this film can have a design or be transparent.

At Layr, we use two top-rated brands of bird film: Solyx and Bird Divert.

Solyx film offers many designs for windows. There are “full coverage” patterns with dots, grids, and lines that vary between threat factors of 10-20. These films also keep out UV light and help with energy efficiency.

Solyx Bird Safety Film with a horizontal pattern keeps birds safe from reflective glass.

Since birds see a broader spectrum of UV rays than humans, there are some films that provide visual cues to birds but are transparent to people. Bird Divert is one of these products. It appears black and violet to avians and has a threat factor of 18. The easiest way to describe Bird Divert is like a series of invisible dots installed on the exterior; these clear pieces of custom vinyl have a rugged adhesive and are tested for weather resistance and durability.

By using this film, owners comply with the law, keep birds safe, protect windows from collisions, and keep the aesthetics they want. It’s a win/win situation.

Bird film at Columbia University’s Jerome Greene Science Center: invisible for the people but life-saving for the birds.

What else do I need to know about bird film?

When we install bird film, each job requires us to take the scope into account. When we work on mid-rise or residential buildings, the process looks and costs different than our work on skyscrapers.

If we are working on a tall building, we factor permits, scaffolds, and/or large lifts into our quote.

Cranes, scaffolds, permits, and lifts help are often needed to install bird film.

We hope this answered some of your questions about the what, why, and how of bird-safety film. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact our team at Layr.

Bird safety isn’t just important in New York; it’s a national issue. As we create tall buildings with stellar aesthetics, let’s make sure our glass doesn’t stop birds in flight.

Let’s do our part.