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Conservationists say glass wall killing birds in OC

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Conservationists want a developer to get rid of a glass wall built around a housing development after they say at least a dozens birds were killed when they flew into it.

Among the birds conservationists say have died include two harrier hawks, a mourning dove, a yellow rumped warbler and a hummingbird.

"You could not build a better passive bird killer in a better spot than they did here," said Scott Thomas, conservation director for Sea & Sage Audubon, an Orange County chapter of the Audubon Society.

Hearthside Homes, which is building 350 homes on a mesa overlooking the Bolsa Chica wetlands, has no plans to take down the wall that the company was given permission to build in 2005, said Senior Vice President Ed Mountford.

The wall was built to mark a boundary between backyards and the open space below, while the glass was used to keep the views of the wetlands, Mountford said.

Mountford said when the homes are built they will provide a backdrop that should correct the problem. In the interim, the developer built a chain-link fence that has yellow construction tape behind most of the wall as a warning to birds.

The developer also is patrolling the fence three times daily to log new deaths, Mountford said.

Gary Langham, director of bird conservation for Audubon California, said the reflection of nearby trees on the glass, not its transparency, is most likely what is confusing the birds.

"It's a mirage, basically, because birds think they're flying into the reflection. They think they're going to a safe haven, and they're just slamming into this wall," he said.

Langham said etching designs in the glass, frosting it, or hanging metal spinners should make the glass less reflective.

Between 100 million and 1 billion birds die each year from hitting glass, according to Daniel Klem Jr., an ornithologist at the Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Penn.

"Short of habitat destruction, this is the most significant source of bird fatalities in the country," he said.

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