City Council passes bird-friendly building ordinance

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Photo by Madison Bratley

Migratory birds travel through the Evanston and Chicago area during their flight paths.

Nora Collins, Reporter

New Evanston developments will be required to follow bird-safe standards in an effort to reduce bird collision deaths after City Council unanimously approved a safety ordinance designed in partnership with local group Bird-Friendly Evanston in September.

Chicago leads the United States as the most dangerous city for migratory birds, according to a 2019 research study from Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology. Judy Pollock, president of the Chicago Audubon Society, said the study shows how critical it is for high-risk bird migration cities to pay attention to their windows.

“Evanston is really just an extension of Chicago, from a bird’s perspective,” Pollock, also a member of both Bird Friendly Evanston and Evanston North Shore Bird Club, said. 

“Hundreds of different species are coming through Evanston and are using not only the lakefront and the canal but also just backyards.”

Different types of glass and construction designs -– including transparent building corners or green roofs — can constitute threats for birds, according to Libby Hill, an Evanston-based author and environmental activist. 

Commercial, multifamily and industrial projects will be required  to lessen those obstacles, among others, to increase protection for birds. 

“For me, it’s the beauty and the importance that we’re not destroying any living being on the earth, whether it be a bird or a bee,” Hill said. 

Pollock said Northwestern has some of the most dangerous buildings in Evanston for birds, including the Kellogg Global Hub. 

Previously, the Frances Searle Building was also a hazard for birds until NU put bird-friendly film on the building for better window visibility.

“It would have been great if we’d had this bill before Northwestern went through this big building boom,” Pollock said. “But this bill is about construction going forward (and) making sure those buildings are safe.”

Still, she said Evanston city staff and developers were responsive to birders’ concerns about Evanston developments. 

“(Evanston’s action) is an important thing,” Pollock said. “You can’t do it alone, residents can’t do it alone.”

Angel Schnur, Evanston’s division manager of Building and Inspection Services, said protections tie into the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) goals.

The plan aims to reduce Evanston’s carbon footprint and negative environmental effects on the world, according to Schnur. That goal is a guiding factor for building construction that will ensure the safety of migratory birds, Schnur added. 

“Part of using our resources properly is protecting the world around us,” Schnur said.

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Twitter: @noracollins02

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