Students and neighbours work to prevent bird-window collisions

By Abby Adair

Safe Wings Ottawa estimates that roughly 250,000 birds collide with glass each year in Ottawa, causing a significant impact on the local bird population. These collisions occur because birds presume that they can reach habitat or sky through windows or within reflective glass. Of the birds that collide with windows, most die on impact, but many die minutes, hours or days later as a direct result of their injuries.

A group of Carleton University students is collaborating with the Glebe Community Association (GCA), the Community Associations for Environmental Sustainability (CAFES) Ottawa and Safe Wings Ottawa, a local non-profit dedicated to reducing bird mortality, to raise awareness about bird-window collisions. Students and partners have launched a survey campaign to assess community willingness to engage with the issue and encourage community members to take action to safeguard local birds.

In addition, Safe Wings Ottawa, CAFES and the participating community associations are offering a workshop on November 13 for survey respondents who indicate they would like to learn more about the issue of bird-window collisions and the application of materials on windows.

This project is part of the of the Foundations of Community Engagement course at Carleton University taught by Professor Deborah E. Conners. It teaches students about community engagement through lectures and hands-on experience conducting a campaign in a local community.

“I’m very excited to be teaching this course,” said Dr. Conners. “I’m able to bring to students the foundational knowledge for how to engage with community and also to give them the experience of that.”

“We are doing a project that has real consequences in the world, real benefits,” said Dr. Conners. “It’s very fulfilling to me to be part of that and to be the conductor of this organized chaotic orchestra that is happening over the course of the term and doing a project that has the potential to make a difference.”

In addition to the Glebe Community Association, students in Dr. Conners’ class are working with representatives from the Westboro, Hintonburg and Fisher Heights areas to promote city-wide participation in the survey. The goal is to provide greater insight into where birds are hitting windows and assess the willingness of communities to take action. Survey findings will be analyzed by Dr. Conners and Dr. Rachel Buxton of the Carleton University Institute of Environment Sciences and shared with Safe Wings Ottawa and the community associations.

Free samples of Feather Friendly window markers will be offered to survey respondents who indicate an interest in acting. These adhesive dots applied to the exterior of windows are proven to make glass more visible to birds, preventing deadly collisions while remaining unobstructive to humans.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for residents in the community to collaborate with students,” said Angela Keller-Herzog, a GCA representative and executive director of CAFES, which is partnering with students on the project. “We all love birds!”

To promote the survey, a group of students will collaborate with the GCA to design and execute an engagement campaign, including social media outreach and face-to-face interaction with community members to spread the word. Students are optimistic that conducting this research for Carleton University and their partners will help organizations support residents in efforts to prevent collisions and reduce bird mortality.

“I feel guilty that I didn’t know about this before,” said Mubasshira Nawsin, a student working on the project. “Now I feel like we are responsible as students and as a future generation. I feel like we need to make an impact.”

To participate in the survey, scan the QR code below or use the following link: or Anyone living in Ottawa can respond.

For more information on bird-window collisions and solutions, check out the Safe Wings Ottawa website at


Abby Adair is a student at Carleton University living in the Glebe.

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