Someone has apparently crunched the numbers and estimated that more than 100 million birds are killed every year due to collisions with glass surfaces – not to mention the untold numbers of beverages spilt by surprised people as a bird slams into a nearby window. Birds see the tree or sky reflected in a window or the environment behind the glazing, but not the glass itself. German company Glaswerke Arnold (or Arnold Glass) has come up with a simple way to prevent these collisions by producing a glass that appears normal to humans but is visible to birds.

Working on the principle that birds possess the ability to see light in the ultraviolet spectrum, the company’s Ornilux Bird-Protection Glass borrows a trick from orb-web spiders that protect their laboriously woven webs from birds flying through them with a special UV-reflecting silk. Recognizing this, the company developed the glass with a patterned UV reflective coating that makes it visible to birds while maintaining transparency to the human eye.

The glass was first introduced in 2006 but the company has released an aesthetically improved version with a crisscross pattern. Developed in collaboration with the Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology, this latest version is called Ornilux Mikado because, when looked at against a backlight, the coating looks like a randomly unfolding layer of the game Mikado pick-up sticks.

Testing at the Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology at the Ornithological Station in Radolfzell, Germany resulted in a bird strike reduction of up to 75 percent in comparison to standard double glazing. Not sure if any animals were harmed in the testing procedure but if so, they obviously gave their noggins for a good cause.

Glaswerke Arnold’s Ornilux Mikado Bird-Protection Glass picked up the red dot award for product design 2010.