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Ornilux Mikado Glass Stops Birds Slamming into Windows

30 August 2010 4,965 views 4 Comments


My apologies to bird lovers, but it can’t be denied that our feathered friends are somewhat lacking in gray matter.  To put it bluntly: birds are dumb.  They’re good at certain things like flying and pecking and saying “ca-caw!” but they have tiny brains.  The reason this becomes important in an architectural context is that you can’t reason with a bird.  You can’t say, “hey, maybe you should think about the fact that a lot of the openings you’re trying to fly into are actually filled with glass, and when you approach these ‘holes’ at a high rate of speed, you will smack into them and you’ll probably wind up dead.”  A person could attempt to have this conversation, but I am confident that any standard bird will merely look at that person, turn its head to the side, then carry on trying to steal his french fries.

The problem lies with perception:  birds do not see transparent glass.  Instead, they either see landscape reflected in the window or look through the glass and think their way is obstacle-free.  “Stickers attached to the glass have been shown to have almost no effect, and have even been taken off the market in Switzerland. Stickers are only really effective if they cover a significant portion of the glass” (Edwards).  I am not sure what to make of the Swiss disdain for stickers but can only assume it is born of contempt at their lack of efficacy, since for example upwards of 100 million birds expire per annum in the United States as a direct result of bird-on-glass collisions.

All of this brings me to telling you about a new product called Ornilux Mikado glass.  It’s an insulating glass developed by German company Arnold Glas treated with a special ultraviolet (UV) reflective coating.  The coating is almost invisible to the human eye but looks like a spider’s web to birds, who are able to see a broader spectrum of wavelengths than humans (Edwards).  Spiders have been trying to keep birds out of their webs for millenia, so it makes sense that the glass, which was developed with input from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, takes its cues from spider webs.

The glass reduces bird collisions by 76%, which means that some birds see the spider web design and don’t let it slow them down.  “The glass was tested on 19 species of garden birds in a flight tunnel at the Radolfzell Bird Sanctuary.  Wild birds were captured and released into the flight tunnel, where they could choose to fly towards a sheet of plain glass or a sheet of Ornilux glass. Of the 108 test flights, 82 of the birds flew towards the plain glass and avoided the Ornilux” (Edwards).  The glass has already found application at bird sanctuaries and swimming pools in Germany, and I’m thinking of suggesting it for use at our office, given the number of bird-prints I’ve seen on the windows during my time here…

Fun Fact: The product was named after the game Mikado (also known as “pick-up sticks”).

More information: http://www.ornilux.de/C


I’m filing this glass under the Water category because glass is a liquid and it makes sense to me.


Edwards, Lin. “Bird-friendly Glass Looks Like Spider Web to Birds.” Physorg.com 08/26/10.  Accessed 08/26/10.  URL.

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  • Daniel Vaughn said:

    So, did the other 26 ‘test’ birds crash to their death in the tunnel?

  • Alli Dryer (author) said:

    I don’t think any birds were permanently damaged as part of the testing process, although I like to imagine they had those little black and yellow targets painted on their cheeks like crash test dummies…

  • Leif said:

    So 82 of the birds flew directly into the plain glass? Wow that sounds like they set up a trap for the birds. Either fly into this glass you cant even see or fly into the glass you can see. It doesnt sound like this “test” was very bird friendly.

  • orlandotrout said:

    can we find this study published somewhere?

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