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9 Ways to Help Birds Avoid Window Collisions

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Experts believe that over 100 million birds die each year in collisions with buildings and skyscrapers in the United States and Canada alone…

By Greg Seaman Posted Feb 24, 2010

avoiding_bird_window_collisionsBirds of many types have been killed by flying into glass windows and doors. According to the Audubon Society, collisions with glass may be a major source of avian mortality that’s widely overlooked.

Although there are several variables which account for bird strikes, the primary cause is reflection. Birds become confused or startled and rush to cover or open sky; unfortunately they often mistake a reflection for the real thing.

In cities the biggest kills typically occur at night during spring and fall migrations, when building lights appeared to lure birds into deadly collisions. Light-dimming campaigns, such as those led by the Toronto-based Fatal Light Awareness Program, have helped reduce the problem.

Here are 9 ways to reduce bird strike occurrences in homes and small buildings:

1. Observation

Bird strikes often follow a pattern – the same windows on a house or building may be repeatedly struck, while others are never struck. Observation and attention to bird attractions such as water, food and cover, will help identify the small percentage of glass area in your home which causes the most problem.

2. Block ‘through-house’ line of sight to the outdoors

Are any windows in your home oriented such that, from the outside, there is a clear view through the house and to another window looking to the outside? A bird may see this as a flight path. This can be changed simply by putting up a shade on the one window, or closing a door or similar obstruction which breaks the open view.

In our home, for example, we noticed that bird window collisions seemed to occur most often in a corner window on the second floor. While on the roof one day cleaning the eavestroughs, I stood outside the window and observed it from a bird’s point of view. Sure enough, a path of vision to a window on the opposite side gave the impression you could fly right through. This was corrected by lowering the blind on the opposing window, and leaving the slats open for light. We have not seen any window strikes since.

3. Reduce window reflection

Birds often strike windows because they see a reflection of clouds, sky or trees which gives the mistaken impression that they are flying into open air. Put a screen or a shade cloth over the window which is nearest to bird activity. A shade cloth, available at hardware stores, is a plastic mesh that allows you to see through, yet keeps the windows from having reflections. If you have blinds, turn them so they are slightly closed, this will reduce reflection. White shears also work to reduce reflection while being able to see through.

4. CollidEscape and window decals

CollidEscape is a transparent film which adheres to the exterior surface of a window, and allows ample light to pass through to the interior, while reducing the window’s exterior reflectivity and transparency. This material is primarily used for commercial and retail advertising on glass. The cost is approximately $4.00 US per square foot.

Many different window decals are on the market for applying to your window for bird strike prevention. These commonly come in the outline form of a hawk silhouette or spider web. While these may be effective, it is difficult to judge if they make a difference in reducing strikes. Birds may not be deterred by stationery objects such as decals.

5. Place a hawk silhouette on your window

Most smaller birds will avoid the company of hawks, especially the sharp-shinned hawk which flies low into cover, often near feeders, and preys on small birds. A hawk simulation can be placed on your window or glass door to discourage birds from flying in this direction. The key is to hang this on the outside of the window, using a suction cup with a bit of clear fishing line to hang the silhouette so it swings in the wind.

hawk_silhouette

You can make a life-sized hawk silhouette by copying the image here, and scaling it up to an 11” wingspan. Trace the image onto a piece of corplast (available in building supply stores) or similar black plastic, and cut it out with a razor knife. Use fish line and suction cup to suspend from the outside of the window.

Hanging a plastic owl is not effective over time, as the figure never moves and birds quickly learn to ignore it.

6. Tack up a temporary cover

Sometimes a more aggressive behavior occurs, typically in the breeding season, where a bird repeatedly ‘attacks’ a window. Seeing its own refection as another bird, it’s trying to drive it away, as songbirds are competitive during breeding times. A cloth, piece of netting or solid material can be placed on the outside of the window for a few days to break the bird of its habit. Or you can install indoor-outdoor blinds on the outside of the window.

We have a robin that appears in the spring and repeatedly attacks the window of our car in the carport. The bird is seeing its reflection in the window, and perceives this as a territorial intruder. Hanging a small towel over the window stopped the behavior, and we only needed to do this for a few weeks during the spring.

7. Place sun ornament, crystal or other objects in your window

Sun ornaments, crystals, strips of cloth and other objects in the window will help birds know they can’t fly through. Avoid hanging plants in front of windows which are in areas of high bird activity – this can further confuse the bird which may fly towards the plant looking for shelter. Double-pane windows have enhanced reflection and are harder for a bird to see through.

8. Locate prey and food attractants away from windows

During spring and summer, bright flowers on the inside windowsill can attract hummingbirds. Hummingbirds usually approach quickly, then hover, before putting their beak into the flower. If the flower is right against the window, the bird will likely stop in time. But if the flower is set back 6” – 12” from the window, an accidental strike may occur.

In our home, we used to keep a fish tank on a counter near the front window. Over time we realized that in the evening an owl would perch outside and occasionally strike the widow, apparently attracted by the fish, since the tank was illuminated by the interior room light. Moving the fish tank solved the problem. If you have a hamster cage, fish tank, or similar attractant, you may consider moving it if you have noticed repeated bird strikes against a nearby window.

9. Locate bird feeders adjacent to, or further away from windows

Bird feeders should be positioned either further back in the yard or up close within 2 or 3 feet of a window. By placing the feeder up close, birds come in at a slower speed; they’re less likely to get hurt during escape because window strikes occur at slower speed. By placing the feeder further out (10 feet or more), the bird has more room to maneuver. Cats are usually wise to the presence of birds around feeders, and the bird needs space to escape in any direction. Locating the feeder in the 3’ – 10’ zone from the window may result in more window strikes.

Window mounted bird feeders do not encourage bird window strikes.

If you find a bird stunned by a window collision:
Often when a bird collides with a window, it is just stunned and will be flying again within an hour, after regaining its senses. With gloved hands, carefully pick up the bird and place it in a safe area away from cats and other predators. In cool weather, place the bird in a well-ventilated box in a warm area to recover. Avoid handling the bird and the box as much as possible. Never handle birds or any other wild animal with your bare hands.

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  • PC Monitors

    Not always very nice, but if it is a real problem you could simply not clean the window that they strike for a while. Do your bit for nature!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ArmorWorks ArmorWorks

    This has been great – my office has a large number of very reflective windows which often result in the death of birds. I think we'll try the anti-reflective film.

  • http://www.kme.co.uk/IndustrialRange.html Industrial Monitors

    Well if you have that sort of problem ArmorWorks, you could just try one of these two simple steps which we have used at our works:
    1. Put blinds up that way you can turn the blinds around so you can still see just as much out your office windows but it makes enought of a point to a brid that its a window or something is in the way etc.
    2. Install a light window tint, this is prob my fav option as it looks nice, it does the job for birds seeing there is an obstruction and best of all it helps to keep the office cooler in the summer and on hot days.

    IMO #2 is the better option for this kind of problem, but its up to you as it all depends on personal prefferances.

  • http://warriorcatsarpg.proboards.com/index.cgi earthwarrior

    Window tints are in my opinion the best solutions. You can see out, the birds can’t see in. {Or they can barely see in.} Many of them if not most of them are also UV-blocking, which has an added health benefit of blocking cancer-causing UVA rays, which come right through an untinted window.

    • jhon

      no they hit my tinted windows more.

  • jolene

    Thank you for caring about the birds! Another suggestion, not about windows, but if you have a water bath or feeder, place it away from low bushes where cats can hide.

  • goedkoopste

    Hi,

    This is good discussion for caring about the birds. I have some suggestion.

    1. Install a light window tint.
    2. Do not put food around your window
    3. Do not put water around your window

    Thanks,
    goedkoopste autoverzekering

  • Ronny

    The only thing you should apply is move the food for the birds to the back of the garden. This will do it.

  • linda

    a chicadee flew right under our hawk sillouette decal, — and died– so much for that theory– i have been putting up vines– morning glory, etc, and leaving them up over the winter–it adds nice garden interest- and
    covers the glass nicely– i used sewing thread to give the vines support – and they are staying up nicely

    • http://www.facebook.com/april.verellen.cyrul April Verellen Cyrul

      How would it get under a decal? I thought decals were stuck to the window? Are you talking about the hawk silhouette they tell about above? I wonder if that works? I don’t see how a bird would get under that? I am getting that it is supposed to be hung by fishing line so it will swing freely so that smaller birds think it is a moving hawk. Does anyone have any ideas. We have huge windows but there is no way to get up to them. The one that is a problem is about 18 ft up from our great room floor. That is near the top. To reach it from outside you have to be on the ground outside the walkout basement. Basement has 11 ft. Ceilings. I know that when my husband washes the windows, he is up very high on the ladder with a very long pole to reach the top of the window. That doesn’t allow us to put a decal up there.

  • jist

    Is it possible to hang a windsock or hummingbird feeder to deter the birds? We love our large windows, but hate seeing the birds crash into it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/petsitter.housesitter PetSitter HouseSitter

    I don’t quite agree with the last paragraph. Unfortunately, we wishfully think the bird is just stunned if it flies away. In reality, most suffer internal hemmoraging, brain swelling & broken bones or limbs and endur horrible pain. They usually fall victim to prey or die from their injuries. Please do what you can to help, especially during mating & hatching season.

  • Judy Wachter

    We have a robin who attacks her reflection from 6am til dark. We hope when her babies fledge that she’ll go away. But, in the meantime, I’ve put sheets of PRESS ‘N SEAL on the outside of our windows and she hasn’t attacked one time since then!

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      Thanks Judy, good tip!

  • Alice Ingrahm

    We suspended inexpensive bird netting over the windows, using a simple frame at the top and bottom, and haven’t had another bird collision. I couldn’t be happier! Here are the instructions we followed: http://www.raleighhealth.com/how-to-prevent-birds-from-hitting-windows.php

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