Bird-safe windows installed on Bell Museum

The fritted glass windows are screen printed with dot patterns to appear as solid surfaces to birds, which can often fly into reflective windows.

The new Bell Museum of Natural History and Planetarium that is currently under construction in Falcon Heights features bird-safe fritted glass windows. Though less than 30 percent of the museum will be glass, the second-floor box window is 25 feet high by 80 feet wide. The museum opens summer 2018.

After Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium made headlines for its unsafe-for-avians glass finish, one of Falcon Heights’ newest additions is attempting to be a safer structure for the birds. Taking shape on the southwest corner of Cleveland and Larpenteur avenues, the new Bell Museum of Natural History and Planetarium features custom-patterned windows to aid in bird conservation, according to an April 3 announcement. Though less than one third of the Bell Museum will be windows, the windowed-sections are using screen-printed glass with line or dot patterns. Known as fritted glass, it’s energy efficient and can cut 

down on deadly bird-on-window collisions.

Migrating birds can often fly straight into reflective windows thinking it’s their habitat. According to a 2014 study by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and U.S. Fish and Wildlife, some 365 million to 988 million birds die from colliding with buildings in the U.S. each year.

“What’s most critical is that birds see the glass on a building as a solid object and not as something to fly towards,” Joanna Eckles, a conservation program manager at Audubon Minnesota, who consulted with the museum’s design team, said in the announcement. “We can help birds avoid glass collisions in many ways, especially through building designs like those incorporated in the Bell Museum.”

The fritted glass windows were made by Owatonna-based ViraCon and have been installed on the museum, which is set to open summer 2018.

Work on the roughly $65 million facility began in April 2016. The former Bell Museum opened its doors in 1940. It was located on the Minneapolis side of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus and closed Dec. 31.

“We strive for every part of this building to help us celebrate Minnesota’s natural resources and wildlife, and get people excited about science — especially the innovative work happening at the U of M,” museum executive director Denise Young said in the announcement.

The Bell Museum is Minnesota’s official state natural history museum. It was founded in 1872.


Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7813. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.

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