Lake County Board approves bird-friendly building design policy to reduce collisions

While symbolically recognizing World Migratory Bird Day, the Lake County Board this week also advanced a new building design policy to protect birds from colliding with glass or other transparent/reflective surfaces.

Effective on its approval this past Tuesday, the policy requires newly-constructed Lake County government-owned facilities to use at least 80% bird-friendly glass on the exteriors from ground level to 100 feet high. The policy to reduce the number of bird strikes and deaths also applies to substantial renovations or additions of county-owned buildings.

Bird-friendly glass has a pattern or design on the exterior that mutes reflections and alerts birds of a solid barrier.

“A policy like this is really monumental,” said Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart. She cited figures showing as many as 1 billion birds potentially are killed by collisions into buildings in the U.S.

  A specially made window is lifted into place as part of the construction last winter of a new environmental education center at Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods. The window’s glass has an ultraviolet pattern that birds can see, so they avoid flying into it. Mick Zawislak/, 2023

Lake County is within the Mississippi Flyway, one of the major bird migratory routes in North America, county officials said.

According to Birdcast, a service managed by Colorado State University, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, more than 30 million birds have crossed the region so far this spring with hundreds of thousands passing through on any given night.

The county began finding ways to reduce the numbers of birds killed in building collisions in 2017 after board Member Paul Frank of Highland Park said he was educated by a constituent on “the catastrophic impacts we are having on these critically important bird populations and how some of the solutions are affordable and attainable.”

Special windows at forest district's new education center will be a lifesaver for birds

Knowing a new policy was pending, bird-friendly glass was incorporated into the $53.8 million Regional Operations and Communications center being built on the county’s Libertyville campus. There are no other new county-owned buildings underway but a retrofit of its nearby Central Permit Facility with bird-friendly measures is being considered.

The Lake County Forest Preserve District’s new environmental education facility in Riverwoods and the College of Lake County’s new building in downtown Waukegan are others incorporating bird-friendly glass.

Frank, who chairs the board’s finance and administrative committee, said the policy is a big step and hopes municipalities, other counties, businesses and residents adopt bird-friendly practices.

The county board on June 11 is expected to expand bird-friendly design requirements to new construction and renovations of nonresidential properties and nonresidential planned unit developments in unincorporated Lake County.

County board member Jessica Vealitzek of Hawthorn Woods chairs the board’s planning, building, zoning and environment committee. She said being accountable for government buildings is the first step.

The actions, she said, will save an increasing number of birds, which are an important part of Lake County’s ecosystem.

Visit to learn more about county efforts to protect and enhance the environments.

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