Window collisions are detrimental to bird populations. Learn how to prevent them.
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Birds hit windows much more than even staunch birders probably realize. However, there are simple solutions to limit the carnage. Looking for a quick solution from various window treatments? Jump ahead to the solutions!
Why do birds hit windows?
Birds are unable to understand what windows are and how they function. When a bird sees a window, the bird does not understand it as a solid object acting as a mirror. Instead, the bird only sees the reflection of the continuous open sky or habitat. Birds often strike windows during migration, when chased by predators, or after departing birdfeeders.
Window collision during migration
During migration, birds are often flying at maximum speeds as they try to reach their breeding or wintering grounds. Many migratory species fly at night, and are attracted to artificial lights, and when flying toward large buildings like skyscrapers, the migratory birds see the reflection of the night sky and collide with the windows.
Window collision escaping a predator
When a predator, like a Sharp-shinned Hawk, chases a smaller bird, the smaller bird looks for a quick and easy escape route away from the predator. When this happens near a window, the smaller bird may see the reflection of a bush or tree, and as the bird tries to escape into that reflected habitat, a collision happens.
Window collision from a bird feeder
Often, when songbirds are feeding at bird feeders, they depart in a huff for a place of comfort. However, humans want to watch bird feeders, so the feeders are placed close to a window. When the songbird leaves the feeder for cover, they can hit the window thinking they are flying to cover.
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Get a better view of the birds outside your windows: Nikon Monarch M5 Binocular
How many birds die from window collisions?
In a study from the USFWS and the Smithsonian, researchers estimated that approximately 365 and 988 million birds are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S. Within these massive annual mortality numbers, an estimated 56% of mortality occurs at low-rises, 44% occurs at residences, and <1% occurs at high-rises. As most readers here likely own residences, understanding how residence window collisions is vital. Researchers examined the data around residences with and without bird feeders in both urban and rural settings. They estimated that urban residences without feeders cumulatively account for 33% of mortality at residences, followed by rural residences without feeders (31%), urban residences with feeders (19%), and rural residences with feeders (17%). This may simply be due to those with feeders already being aware of the impacts window collisions have on bird populations; thus, these residences have treated windows.
Which bird species are most impacted by window collisions?
The majority of studies conducted on bird-window collisions have been conducted in eastern North America. However, many of these species occur across the continent and are likely to be disproportionately impacted regardless of location. The bird species with the highest percentage of bird-window impacts are the White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), the Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla), and the Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia). These four species account for 35% of the total collision records. Several additional species exhibit disproportionately high vulnerability to collisions regardless of building type, including Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), Brown Creeper (Certhia americana), Ovenbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), and Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia). And finally, several species listed as national "Birds of Conservation Concern" due to their declining populations were identified to be highly vulnerable to building collisions, including Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris), Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis), Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosa), and Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum).
How to prevent birds from striking windows?
There are several simple methods to preventing bird strikes on windows. There are quick solutions are offered from the National Audubon Society, such as creating patterns on reflective surfaces (multiple markings 2 to 4 inches apart recommended), installing external screens, closing blinds or curtains, move plants away from windows, and either place feeders directly on windows or move them more than 30 feet away. Want to add a treatment to windows used to watch feeders from? There are extensive options available that can prevent bird-window collisions:
Best Window Treatment for Birds: ColliEscape Decals and Tape
Despite the poor online reviews by purchasers, the American Bird Conservancy lists these decals as some of the best options available to treat existing windows to prevent bird strikes. No option is perfect, but they can all help to reduce window strikes from birds.
White CollidEscape Window Decal - A full external window covering that is white on the outside, but allows for complete viewing from the inside is the best option to prevent bird-window strikes on existing windows. Additionally, these decals can also lower cooling costs on windows that remain open during the day! This decal is for windows 24x60 inches. Have a larger window? There are decals for 36x60 inches and 60x72 inches.
Clear CollidEscape Window Decal - A full external window covering that is clear will lessen window strikes greatly, but may not be as preventative as the white option. However, viewing out the window is still possible. Additionally, these decals can also lower cooling costs on windows that remain open during the day!
White CollidEscape Window Tape - If you do not want a full window cover, the tape strips are a great alternative. The white tape performs better than the clear tape. However, color is less important than the pattern. Holes that are greater than 2 inches apart can still leave space for impacts from birds.
Clear CollidEscape Window Tape - The clear tape strips are the lesser of all these protection options but are the greatest for offering better views of your bird feeders or yard.
White and clear CollidEscape tape can help prevent window strikes!
Cheap and Simple Window Treatment for Birds (Great for apartments and rental homes)
If you need a simple treatment option that can be quickly removed or adjusted, tempera paint or window chalk are easy options that are great for a lower budget.
Tempera Paint - Use some artistic license and create a masterpiece on the window! Make sure there are no large gaps (nothing 4+ inches, 2 inches best) in the work of art!
Window Chalk - A simple white pattern is sufficient to prevent window strikes. However, window chalk can be a fun way to decorate windows while also preventing bird-window collisions.
Gallery of window protections for birds!
Can birds survive window collisions?
While you may see a bird stand up and fly away, many birds suffer internal injuries like hemorrhages and/or concussions, or they suffer injuries to their bills, wings, eyes, or skulls. While they may be able to fly temporarily, birds with even moderate injuries are much more vulnerable to predators and other environmental dangers. These birds can often fly away out of view, then die from predators or injuries shortly after. However, many birds are killed immediately and never fly away.
I have never seen a bird hit my window
This is a phrase I have heard many times, but the average person might spend 6+ hours away from home every day. This leaves a lot of opportunities for a bird to collide with the window and the carcass to be carried away by a predator. In fact, researchers believe that windows that are not constantly monitored likely have at least 25% of window collisions missed.
What to do if a bird hits a window?
If you have a bird strike on a window, gather the bird and place it in a dark, dry, and warm (but not hot) location and contact a local wildlife rehabber. A box without water, towels, etc, is great. Putting anything else in the box could damage the bird further. If the bird gets wet, it could chill quickly and suffer from hyperthermia-like symptoms. Do not offer the injured bird food of any kind, as most birds have complex diets that are not well understood unless the species is familiar. To reiterate, place the bird in a safe, dry, dark, warm place and contact a wildlife rehab clinic.
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