Thump! It’s that sickening sound that can only mean another bird has flown into one of your windows. Birds cannot see glass, especially if it is reflecting the nearby habitat or sky. These reflections do not register as such to a bird. This is why millions of birds die or are injured each year in collisions with glass windows in homes and office buildings.
Here are some suggested options for making your windows less deadly for birds. Please note: The only way to prevent birds from hitting your windows is to create a physical barrier (such as a screen or crop netting) between the birds and the glass surface. Other strategies and products can only visually deter birds from flying into the glass surface.
- Move your feeders. Many window-killed birds are familiar feeder birds that use our backyards every day. There are two parts to this suggestion. Move the feeders farther away from your windows or move them closer to your windows. The idea here is that you’ll disrupt the birds’ usual flight path to and from the feeders. Moving the feeders closer to the windows can sometimes help because birds startled off the feeders by a hawk don’t build up enough speed to hurt themselves, and being closer to the window, the birds might be able to see that it is not an effective escape route. Remember that moving the feeders will do nothing to prevent nonfeeder birds, such as migrant thrushes and warblers, from hitting the glass. So here are some more general suggestions.
- Branches. Breaking up the reflective ability of a large expanse of glass is key to making it less deadly. A natural way to do this is to suspend tree branches in front of the most-struck windows. Try to do this in a way that will give good coverage to the pane of glass but will not eliminate your view entirely.
- Window Decals/Stickers/Tape. There is a growing number of products available commercially designed to reduce window strikes without rendering the window visually unusable. The American Bird Conservancy has tested many of these, including their own product, ABC BirdTape, and rated each on its effectiveness. Check out their complete list of suggestions here: https://bit.ly/1Y1Qngr
- Mylar balloon/Mylar tubes. If you are willing to shell out $6.99 for a balloon at your local grocery store, make sure you get one of the long-lasting metallic-looking Mylar balloons (often featuring innocuous messages such as “It’s A Boy!” or a well-known cartoon character). These shiny balloons will flap around in the breeze and spook birds from coming too close to your windows. Gardeners have been using this scarecrow strategy for years to spook birds away from vegetable and fruit gardens. Avoid using helium-filled balloons which can break free, blow far away, and end up as litter, or worse, in the stomach of a fish, turtle, or seabird.
- Hawk/owl/crow silhouettes. The black vinyl flying accipiter silhouettes were the conventional solution for window strikes in the 1970s and many are still in use today. I have also seen owl and crow silhouettes used for the same purpose. The idea is that these shapes of “dangerous” birds are scary enough to prevent small birds from flying toward them, but their effectiveness is debatable. In certain situations they seem to work, at least for a time. The question is, do the birds get used to them and ignore them? If you can’t find these at your local bird store, trace the outline of a hawk, crow, or owl from a picture, enlarge it on a copier, cut it out and trace it onto black paper or vinyl, and stick them onto your windows.
- Plastic strips/pie pans/ Christmas decorations/ CDs. Another method of warning birds away from windows is to use something unusual suspended in front of the glass. The item can be shiny and reflective such as the aforementioned Mylar balloon, an aluminum pie pan, tin foil, Christmas decorations, or old compact discs (CDs). Or it can be something that flutters in the wind, such as strips from a plastic garbage bag. The message to birds is “don’t fly toward this scary, moving stuff.” You might have to explain to your kids or grandkids what a CD is.
- Screens or netting on the outside. The old standby solution to window strikes is to stretch some mesh netting (also known as fruit netting or crop netting) across your problem windows. This can take a bit of work, and it doesn’t look great, but the benefit is that it is the only solution that is 100 percent effective in preventing birds from hitting your windows. Some bird watchers will tie short pieces of white flagging, rags, or yarn to the netting to alert birds to its presence. An alternative is to get some old window screens (old storm window screens or screen doors work well) and suspend them in front of the windows birds are hitting regularly. Here’s how Julie Zickefoose dealt with a problem set of large windows: https://bit.ly/2AzfXc4
- Feather Guard. Perhaps my favorite reader tip of all time was featured as a “My Way” in the September/October 2001 issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest. The idea is called FeatherGuard. BWD reader Stiles Thomas of New Jersey created FeatherGuard. His creation consists of bird feathers strung about 8 inches apart on fishing line. These lines of feathers are then strung vertically across regularly struck windows. Birds see the feathers and do not continue to fly into the windows. Do the birds see the feathers as evidence of predation? Do the moving feathers frighten the birds? Nobody knows for sure, but I know from experience that FeatherGuard works to reduce bird collisions on problem windows! Buy yourself a FeatherGuard and see how it works for you.