While on a recent organized birding tour, I received a rather lengthy discourse on the new ecolodges popping up around the globe. Striving for luxury, the new ecolodges are using architecture with lots of glass windows and inadvertently creating bird death traps in far flung locations. The birds see the reflection of the sky and trees in the window and fly straight into them, generally dying of a concussion soon thereafter.
What can you do about it? First, if you see a bird hit a window tell the manager or owner of the hotel and if there is a comment box, write a note. Without pressure from their customers, nothing will happen. Suggest effective methods to reduce the bird slaughter. I recently moved to a house with just such windows. I have taped strips of reflective mylar ribbon about 2.5 feet apart on each window. They are fixed with painting tape (blue tape) toward the top of the window, but hang free for about ¾ of the window’s length. Does it work? Yes, though it doesn’t one hundred percent eliminate bird strikes it significantly reduces their number from a few a day, to a few a month. Does it detract from the view (managers will inevitably say that visitors don’t want to see tape on the windows)? No, it does not, the view is still lovely, the bird feeder still easily seen, and I sleep better knowing that the birds are safer. A minimum of education will surely engage a guest’s tolerance of the tape.
The only problem I’ve experienced with the tape is when the wind blows the tape taps against the window, a noise generally noticed at night. One alternative is to remove the mylar at night from bedroom windows. The blue, painting tape is easily taken down and put back up. The procedure would add to the lodge’s duties, but it could also be done voluntarily by the patrons with a minimum of education. A second is to hang the tape or an artistic mobile from the eave out of reach from the window. This only works where the eave is level or near level with the window. I’m not sure how effective this strategy is, but it would be better than nothing. Another suggestion is putting cut out hawk silhouettes on the outside of the window panes. Easy to make and apply, a bit of shelf paper and a pair of scissors will do. Alternatively, they can be bought, premade. Some apply by static so there is no mess of stick-um when the silhouette is removed.
A more recent alternative is the use of UV reflectors or UV reflective windows. Based on the ability of birds but not humans see in the UV light spectrum; when applied to a window, the UV reflector looks solid to birds, but transparent to humans. The reflectors are similar to the hawk silhouettes; plastic cutouts (leaves, hawks, butterflies, and others) that adhere by static to the outside of the window. They are easily removed for cleaning, though I find cleaning without removal is no problem. If visiting a newer lodge, perhaps a good gift would be to bring a dozen of these as a token of good will. Similarly, if you hear or know of a lodge being constructed, there are now entire windows (one brand is Ornilux) that are UV reflective; available in the US and Europe, but perhaps shipped farther abroad.
Of course, you can always vote with your pocketbook and book into lodges with more traditional architecture and fewer windows. Be sure to let the more windowed lodge know the reason for your choice, so your choice has effect. If you use Trip Advisor or some other hotel review service, do include if you witnessed birds striking windows in your report so fellow birders are alerted to the problem.
After listening to my fellow traveler’s concern, I paid more attention at the next ecolodge I visited. Amazingly, I was there two nights and saw two birds strikes, one immediately fatal to an Emerald ground dove. The guides told me strikes were common and that they had pressured the management to do something. Management was not on site, and had no incentive to do anything because there was no pressure from the public. I was able to leave a comment for management with suggestions on how to fix the problem, and noted the issue on Trip Adviser.
At the risk of jumping subjects, another issue that deserves some attention is the garbage we generate while at remote sites. Out of necessity, this garbage is typically burned either at the lodge, or nearby. As we are all aware, reducing the plastic garbage we generate reduces the amount of toxins released in the air by burning. Something we may not think about is our contribution of toxic waste in remote locations, namely, our spent batteries. Many countries and most lodges have no capacity to recycle or process batteries and they end up first in the burn pile and second in the ground as leaking rusting sources of toxic chemicals. An easy and positive thing we can do is take them home, don’t leave them behind. If your country has the facilities, take the spent batteries home for recycling, or at the very least, take the batteries back to a major city away from remote and more pristine environments.