A rendering of the historic Bird House with an entry addition.

In the most recent issue of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Connect magazine, QEA Principal Katie Slattery, AIA, LEED AP, discusses our firm’s pioneering work on bird-friendly zoo habitats.

Mary Ellen Collins’ “It’s All for the Birds: Creating Ideal Lighting in Avian Exhibits” focuses on lighting in bird habitats, and particularly on the importance of natural light to these sight-oriented creatures’ health and wellbeing. While we know that humans need natural light to thrive in indoor environments, birds’ needs for natural light differ from our own in some surprising ways – for example, unlike us, birds can see into the UVB spectrum of light, which glass windows block out.  
Katie explains that QEA’s renovation of the historic Bird House at the National Zoological Park incorporates an alternative plastic material called ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, or ETFE, which transmits UVB light. The renovated skylights will allow the building’s avian inhabitants to experience the same quality of light they would see outdoors; other zoos that have replaced their bird habitat glazing with ETFE have noticed an increase in sunning and nesting behaviors, as well as egg production.   

“The selection of ETFE was made for the health of the birds, but it has the added benefit of less structural weight than glass.”

Katie Slattery, AIA, LEED AP

Learn more about the renovation of the 1928 Bird House and the exciting new exhibit it will house at the National Zoo’s Experience Migration page.