August 13, 2012

Bird-Safe Glass Being Used At UK Lookout Tower

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A special type of glass coating, developed by a German company and inspired by spider webs, is being used for the first time in the UK to help protect birds flocking to an island off the northeast coast of England.

The glazing, which is known as Ornilux and is visible to birds but invisible to humans, was developed by researchers at Arnold Glas and is being used at a lookout tower at The Holy Island of Lindisfarne in order to keep the "hundreds of species" of birds that flock there at specific times of the year, BBC News reported on Friday.

Previously, the substance, which can reportedly reduce bird collisions by as much as two-thirds, has been used by a Canadian wildlife center, a German zoo, an Austrian railway building, and a U.S. school. However, Lindisfarne is the first UK facility to make use of the UV coating that was first introduced to Europe in 2006.

"A friend of the owner of the company saw an article about the Orb-weaver spider," Arnold Glas export manager Natalie Kopp told the BBC. "Its web reflects UV light protecting it from being destroyed by birds as they can see it and do not fly through. The idea of developing a coating for glass... inspired by nature was born on the same evening."

According to the company's official website, bird window strikes is one of the greatest threats to avian mortality (second only to habitat destruction), largely because of the "reflective and transparent characteristics of glass." In order to prevent those collisions, the company's bird-protection glass has a patterned, UV-reflective coating that makes it appear transparent to people, but observable to birds.

Ornilux was first tested in a flight tunnel at the American Bird Conservancy, and according to the BBC, those tests involved birds flying towards an end of the facility covered with both glass and the special glazing. Nets were used and no birds were harmed in the experiment, the firm said, and the trials revealed that the Ornilux glass coating could prevent up to 68% of avian collisions.

"The safety measure comes at a cost. The product is significantly more expensive than alternative measures such as placing semi-transparent UV-coated stickers across windows. But it has the advantage that it does not spoil the view for humans," the BBC said, adding that the visibility factor played an important part in the decision to use Ornilux at the Lindisfarne lookout tower, a landmark originally built in the 1940s.

"We have a massive increase in birds at certain times of the year and the building is going to be there permanently," Lindisfarne development officer David Suggett told the British news organization. "From the outside to the human eye the glass looks absolutely normal - it just looks like it's see-through. But if you are a member of the public and you go inside and you go very close to the glass at a certain angle you can see very fine veins running through it and this is what the birds pick up on when they are flying round the tower."