Loyola University Chicago

School of Environmental Sustainability

Buildings of Concern

Student Operation for Avian Relief (SOAR)

Loyola is lucky to be situated on the shore of Lake Michigan. This ensures great views from many buildings and goes a long way towards making this a very special campus. It also means that we share habitat with many species, especially those that rely on easy access to the Lake. Large numbers of migratory birds fly through Chicago during spring and fall, and many of these fly off the lake to feed and rest on Loyola’s campus.

Many of these birds are not good at perceiving glass, and they often have fatal collisions with large windows on campus. Since spring 2012 the SOAR program has monitored these bird strikes and worked to address the risks posed. We have identified four buildings as being the most dangerous. These are described below, with information about our ongoing efforts to reduce bird deaths at each.

Information Commons

The IC has glass walls on its east and west side and sits within a few feet of Lake Michigan. As birds fly in off the lake they see right through it to the quad on the other side. When SOAR began the IC was quickly recognized to be the most dangerous building on campus, killing up to 80 birds per migration. Luckily, the solution has been relatively simple and very effective. SOAR now works with Campus Facilities to automatically close the blinds between midnight and dawn during the migratory periods. Although birds still don’t see the glass, they do see the blinds and this warns them to avoid the building. The number of deaths per migration has decreased to ~2-8 per season.

Sullivan Center for Student Services

Loyola’s Sullivan Center sits directly on Lake Michigan and has a continuous window running along the first floor beside the lake. When the SOAR project began, we found 20-30 birds per migration dead by these windows.

‌These windows all have blinds, but unlike the IC they are not computer controlled. Recently, Campus Facilities has arranged for the Sullivan janitorial staff to close the blinds at the end of their evening shift. The blinds are opened again in the morning as office workers arrive. The number of deaths per migration at Sullivan has decreased to just 2-3 per migration.

Norville Center for Intercollegiate Athletics

The Norville inter-collegiate athletics building has a southern wing with glass walls and a series of nine arched windows that face towards Lake Michigan. Both parts of the building were quickly recognized as being dangerous for birds. SOAR now works with Campus Facilities to automatically close the blinds on the south wing, and bird deaths have declined to almost nothing. Unfortunately there are no blinds on the arched windows, and these continue to be a major concern, killing 30-40 birds per migration. Currently, SOAR is working with Facilities and the Athletics Department to find a solution.

Halas Recreation Center

A main feature of the new Halas building is the large glass fronted atrium that sits in a corner created by the surrounding buildings. It appears that those buildings funnel birds towards the glass wall, with which many collide.

During the first migration that this building was open (fall 2014) SOAR found that it is now the most dangerous building on campus for birds, and at least as dangerous as the IC ever was. We are currently beginning our search for solutions.