Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
A London design firm is trying to get urban citizens to make the city more bird-friendly.
City birds have a tough life. Instead of an abundance of foliage to frolic in, cities have glassy skyscrapers for birds to fly into. Instead of nuts, insects, and worms, birds end up eating (and sometimes wearing) discarded human food. City birds also get less sleep than their rural counterparts, and the polluted water they drink makes them sick.
This inhospitable urban environment drives down the numbers of the many, many species of birds native to cities. In the U.K., for example, house sparrows—once plentiful enough to be a nuisance—are now in decline because urbanization has depleted the population of insects they eat.
One such effort comes in the form of The Nest Project, by London-based design studio Fieldwork Facility. The project—still in the concept phase—would produce colorful bird houses that easily attach to urban structures such as telephone poles, lamp-posts, and signage.
Here’s creator Robin Howie explaining how he came up with the idea, via Wired:
“I realized that this little bird-house-pencil-sharpener that I had made could be reverse engineered. Instead of it just being a product to sit on desks it could be a medium to engage people in helping build a real nest for real birds in their own neighborhoods."
The idea for the citizen-led initiative works like this: participants receive an easy-to-assemble, sturdy bird house about the size of a small desk plant. It doubles as a pencil sharpener: the pencil shavings comprise the nesting material that collects inside.
The little structures can then be mounted with cables, and the instructions in the accompanying booklet.
People could then add their locations to a database and contribute pictures and reports of the avian activity around each house.
Corporate supporters of the project would get an additional perk: they’d receive nests with built-in cameras and the ability to tweet every time there’s bird activity inside the nest.
If Howie’s idea gets sufficient interest from institutions like schools and universities, he’s going to launch a crowd-funding campaign, Wired reported. Here’s how Howie sums up the significance of the project on his site:
The nests are homes for birds but also urban interventions for people; they highlight nature's place in our urban fabric.
So, London, help him put a bird (house) on it.