About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why are the birds hitting my windows?

I just moved into a house that has windows all along the back facing the woods. All of a sudden I've noticed an increase in the number of birds hitting the windows. What's going on and how do I stop this from happening?

Right now there are first year birds and new birds migrating throughout the area and unfortunately the change in light and unfamiliar surroundings cause birds to fall victim to window strikes. Birds also strike windows as they quickly try to escape predators, hitting glass in a moment of panic. Window strikes are hard to totally eliminate, but there are ways to reduce them and/or reduce their severity:
  • Locate feeders and birdbaths about 20-30 feet from windows so birds have time to change direction or within 1-2 feet of them so they can't gather enough speed to cause significant injury.

  • Window screens will reduce injury even if a bird flies into it. Use them where practical.

  • Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds. It takes multiple decals on the window surface; one stuck in the middle won't make a difference.

  • Mylar reflective strips hanging loose in front of the window will move in the breeze and alert birds flying too close to a window.

  • Use a yellow highlighter to draw X's on the inside of a window. The fluorescent highlighter is visible to birds, because the fluorescent ink will simultaneously absorb UV and release visible light. However it works best in sunlight, and worst in low light or on overcast days. This last suggestion comes from an experiment conducted by David Sibley, author of the Sibley Guide to Birds. http://sibleyguides.blogspot.com/search/label/bird-window%20collisions

It is estimated that between 100 million and one billion birds are killed every year in the United States when they crash into glass windows. And even one billion deaths might be a conservative estimate, says ornithologist Daniel Klem Jr. of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa.

Dr. Klem actually studied window collisions by conducting several experiments in which he hung clear panes of glass, mirrors, and picture windows adjacent to one another in a woody thicket facing an old field habitat. A strike was registered when a specimen was found beneath a window or a feather, body smudge or blood smear was found on the glass.

A copy of his study can be found on the following link: 2009. Preventing Bird–Window Collisions. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 121(2):314-321. Daniel Klem Jr.

If you do have a window strike and the bird is injured CALL FOR ADVICE! The best course may be no interference. For a list of licensed rehabilitators click HERE. Or visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/

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