Birdwatch News Archive
The launch of Ornilux was marked by a visit to Lindisfarne, Northumberland, by Prince Charles, who was shown how the glass would help prevent bird strikes by Dick Patterson of Glas Wagener in the new observation tower. Photo: Glas Wagener.
Spider glass saves birds
Posted on: 07 Aug 2012
A new bird-strike resistant glass has been created by a German company to prevent avian deaths and injuries when birds fly into windows.
Untold millions of birds die each year by striking glazing in buildings, but until now little has been able to be done to prevent this other than by placing stickers on the pane or tinting the glass. Now a German company called Glas Wagener has launched a new glass in which ultraviolet (UV) light – invisible to the human eye but visible to the bird – is reflected to reveal the glass's presence.
The new 'biomimetic' material was inspired orb weaver spider webs, which reflect UV light to stop birds flying through them and destroying the web, as well as to attract insects. Spiders of the genus Argiope (which includes the St Andrew's Cross Spider), widely distributed throughout the tropics, have conspicuous semi-opaque bands sewn across their webs known as stabilimenta, which warn birds of the presence of a web in their flight path.
These bands are not always prominent but always prevent bird strikes because they contain UV reflecting fibres that birds respond to, as they use that part of the spectrum as part of everyday vision.
Ornilux was tested at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell, Germany, using 17 different UV reflective panes in a flight tunnel; 19 European bird species were used, and 678 approach angles were analysed; a net was placed below the panes to protect the birds from injury. The resulting glass with a crisscross UV material almost invisible to the human eye was approved in 2009, and is now available in Europe and North America.
Now, the glass has seen its first use in Britain in a new observation tower opened by Prince Charles, on Lindisfarne, a former coastguard look-out point giving panoramic views inland to the Cheviot Hills and along the rugged Northumberland coast. The tower will open for public use later this month.
The manufacturers say that Ornilux is "a specially developed impact-resistant insulated glass that can be used in all window or facade installations, just like conventional insulated glass. Ornilux can now be recommended to architects or builders to minimize the effects of bird-strike in buildings having large glass installations, without requiring the use of visual barriers which are disturbing to people."
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