Grant from Richland County helps Irmo library go bird-friendly

March 31, 2022

A new project that balances wildlife preservation with art will make the area around Richland Library Ballentine safer for local and visiting birds.

Thanks to grant funding from the Richland County Conservation Commission (RCCC), the S.C. Wildlife Federation (SCWF) recently applied a material to the library’s windows to eliminate reflections on the outside of the building, making it easier for birds to avoid colliding with the structure.

A Texas-based company, CollidEscape, developed the material to prevent incidences of birds flying into glass, which can stun or kill them. Richland Library commissioned local artist Nell Warthen to design CollidEscape treatments that feature renderings of birds native to South Carolina. Warthen’s display is called “Birds of Ballentine.”

The S.C. Wildlife Federation recently installed bird-safe window coverings at Richland Library Ballentine. The project was funded via a grant from the Richland County Conservation Commission.

“This project really exemplifies what we want to do with Community Conservation Grant awards,” said John McKenzie, conservation program analyst for Richland County Community Planning & Development.

“It combines the priorities of public benefit in a community space with conservation of our threatened bird populations, and it serves as a great example to others. It also provides energy savings as well as protection of the library’s books and furnishings,” McKenzie said.

CollidEscape was installed on the outside windows of Richland Library Ballentine to reduce reflections and prevent birds from colliding with the windows. The windows feature work by local artist Nell Warthen.

Designing with Safety in Mind

A 2014 study by the Smithsonian Institution estimated that each year, as many as 1 billion birds perish from window collisions in the United States.

Richland Library Ballentine, located in Irmo, features nearly 700 square feet of continuous windows that directly face a forest. Before SCWF installed CollidEscape, the outside windows reflected that forest, a natural habitat for birds, posing a hazard to native and migratory bird populations.

Richland Library Ballentine visitors look out at the forest through the library’s 700 square feet of windows. Though CollidEscape was installed to eliminate reflections on the building’s outside, visitors’ view from inside is unimpeded.

With CollidEscape now covering the outside windows, the library’s glass surfaces, featuring Warthen’s renderings, become a work of art. From inside, the window coverings retain their transparency, allowing patrons to enjoy the view of the forest and its inhabitants as they use the library.

Along with the window installation, SCWF worked with Richland Library staff to design educational materials highlighting the dangers that window strikes pose to bird populations and how the new wall coverings help prevent such collisions. While bird strikes were once a regular occurrence at the library, zero strikes have been recorded since the installation five weeks ago.

From left: Richland Library Ballentine Manager Kelly Jones, S.C. Wildlife Federation Habitat Education Manager Jay Keck and County Councilman Bill Malinowski help unveil bird-safe windows Monday at the library as part of the “Birds of Ballentine” project.

Jay Keck, habitat education manager for SCWF, is hopeful that his organization’s partnership with RCCC and Richland Library encourages other public and private building owners to take similar measures to help protect local wildlife.

“It’s the first commercial (CollidEscape) install in South Carolina,” Keck said of the project. “There’s all sorts of places we can apply this.”

Richland Library Ballentine will feature the Birds of Ballentine effort during an Earth Day celebration 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, April 12. Visitors can learn more about the project and local birds.