Striking out at bird-window collisions
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Striking out at bird-window collisions

September 13, 2021

While achieving that crystal-clear window is satisfying for a homeowner, for birds, it’s a death trap – to them, it’s hardly visible at all.

In Canada, as many as 16 to 42 million birds are injured or killed by collisions with windows every year. Ever year, billions of birds migrate across North America. Climate change means their world is changing rapidly, and many migratory birds are adapting their migration patterns. This leaves them more vulnerable to new challenges, including window strikes. Download our infographic.

“Unfortunately there is no set season, day or time when birds are safe from window collisions. Migratory birds are especially vulnerable. If we want to help, we should always be thinking about our feathered friends,” says Dr. Sara Dubois, chief scientific officer for the BC SPCA.

Window reflections deadly to birds

Windows have become one of the bird’s most costly threats, with more dying from striking them than collisions with power lines, communication towers or vehicles. Whether it’s a hummingbird, a migratory songbird or even a hawk or an owl, they are all victims of this unfortunate situation.

“Birds end up colliding into windows simply because they can’t see the glass,” Dubois says. “When the windows reflect the landscape or the sky, it may look like an inviting place to fly. This is a year-round hazard for birds, in all types of weather.”

Often, when birds survive a window collision, it will temporarily stun them and they will fly off, as if recovered. But, this is not always the case. In reality, the bird may die later from internal injuries or the bird will then be an easier victim to predators and other dangers.

If a bird happens to hit your window and is injured, it’s important to seek advice of experts rather than trying to provide care yourself. Program the BC SPCA animal helpline 1-855-622-7722 into your phone so you know who to call for advice.

“While it definitely feels great to save an animal’s life, do not attempt to give water, food or any other care to the bird,” says Dubois. “Birds need specialized care and attention, so a local wildlife rehabilitation centre is the best chance for the bird’s survival.”

One example includes a beautiful male Red-breasted nuthatch that had collided with a residential window. Before the homeowner could retrieve them, the bird was caught by an outdoor cat, unable to react quickly enough to escape. Wild ARC’s rehabilitation team found that in addition to suffering from mild head trauma as a result of the window-strike, the bird had sustained soft-tissue damage to the wing and several puncture wounds from the cat.

Fortunately, after nearly a month of treatment at the rehabilitation facility – including a supportive wing wrap, painkillers and antibiotics, and housing in a progressively larger series of enclosures to regain his fitness – he was released back to his home territory.

How you can help

Luckily, there are easy steps to help birds from window strikes:

  • Use WindowAlert™ decals or Feather Friendly® tape on your windows
  • Hang mylar strips or well-secured strings of beads on windows
  • Use window markers or draw on your windows with a bar of soap
  • A dirty window is a safer window – relax a little on your cleaning schedule, and know that birds are safer for it
  • Find help for birds that have hit a window – program the BC SPCA animal helpline into your phone 1-855-622-7722
Hand-drawn design on a window to prevent bird strikes
Design drawn on a window using an oil-based marker

“The more coverage on the window, the better. By making these simple changes, you are truly saving lives,” says Dubois.

The decals attach to the outside of your window to make glass more visible by reflecting UV light that birds can easily see and humans can’t, glowing like stop lights to  warn birds away. Similarly, Feather Friendly® tape creates a visual cue that the glass is there. Along with decals or tape, drawings, hanging mylar strips, or well-secured strings of beads can be effective and visually-pleasing solutions that help birds avoid glass.