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Bird Flying into a Window

Updated on July 8, 2016

You're sitting inside when you hear a thud at the window. If you look up quickly enough you may spot a stunned bird falling to the ground. In this instance most of us would rush outside to help, but what is the best thing to do for this poor bird which has flown into the window? Why do birds fly into windows in the first place? Is there anything that can be done to stop it happening?

I recently experienced a bird flying into my office window at work. The thud was tremendous because the bird was a mallard duck and considerably heftier than your average window victim.

Unfortunately the duck failed to revive and died within five minutes. Rather sweetly the 3 male ducks she had been flying with had landed and came waddling back to the front of the building to see what had happened to her. It was sad not to be able to return her to them.

Pied wagtails sometimes fly into windows chasing their own reflection
Pied wagtails sometimes fly into windows chasing their own reflection | Source

Why do Birds Fly into Windows?

Unfortunately wild birds don't have a concept of windows or glass. When windows reflect the sky or whatever's outside they believe that is what's there. This is what happened to the duck at my office. When I went outside the span of windows was reflecting clouds and sky. It was easy to see why the duck had flown into it.

Occasionally birds fly into windows because they have seen their reflection and think it is an intruder on their territory who they want to attack. European robins and pied wagtails are two species which are a bit prone to doing this.

Windows reflecting sky
Windows reflecting sky | Source
Window Casualty
Window Casualty | Source

What to do with a Stunned Bird

1) Although it is tempting to rush a stunned bird to the vet, the best course of action is to place the bird in a dark, quiet, warm and secure box or a cage with a towel over it. If the bird is very badly stunned it will almost certainly die in the next 10 minutes and there is nothing a vet could have done for it. You may see blood coming from the beak - this is a sign that the bird is unlikely to survive.

Have you ever helped a bird which flew into a window?

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2) If it is going to recover from being stunned after 10 minutes the bird should be starting to look brighter. At this stage you need to check the bird for injuries. If you think it has a broken wing, beak or leg it will need veterinary attention. Take the bird to your nearest vet or contact a wildlife hospital such as St Tiggywinkles.

3) If the bird is beginning to recover, but needs more time leave it for another hour or two, but no more. Unless it is a nocturnal bird like an owl, you should release it in daylight. If night falls before it is recovered and you have to keep it overnight you should offer it some water and ideally some food suitable for the species. Breadcrumbs or any seeds you have in store e.g. sunflower seeds will suit the seed eaters, A little raw mince will suit robins and blackbirds or a bird of prey.

4) If you are confident that the bird is uninjured and it is now on its feet in the box or cage, take it back outside and release it. Either take the bird in your hands and let it fly off or open the box and let it leave in its own time. Keep an eye out for cats though!

Prevent Birds Flying into Windows

To prevent birds flying into windows you need to render the windows visible or off putting to birds. The traditional way to do this is to put a hawk silhouette on the window. The sight of a hawk should make birds think twice about flying in that direction.

Any shape stuck on the outside of the windows will reduce the likelihood of a bird flying into them, so you could cut out shapes of your own design from coloured sticky back plastic and stick them to the windows or you could just leave your outdoor Christmas snowflakes up all year round!

Another option is to put mock window leading on your windows, although this isn't to everyone's taste.

A modern option is to use decals on the outside of windows which are transparent to human eyes but visible to birds because they reflect UV light. Birds can see reflected UV so get quite a different view of the world to us. It doesn't matter what shape decal you use, putting several on each window should give them enough of a clue not to fly there.


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    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 3 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi, I had this happen and yes the bird survived. I always wondered why the birds do hit windows. Great hub.

    • snerfu profile image

      Vivian Sudhir 3 years ago from Madurai, India

      Interesting article, and more interesting birds flying around.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I read about ribbons taped to windows, as they move in the breeze. I believe the author had said that the decals didn't deter this from happening. I don't know why. This article that you wrote is a good way to get people to help birds, and most people are happy to do it.

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      I never realized how the window reflects the outdoors, I only thought birds did not see the glass, as I did those times when I smashed my nose on the clean sliding glass door. One more reason not too clean windows. ;)

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      O it was sad to hear that the duck careened to its death and sadder even when her 'friends' came to check on her. We have encroached on their territory and this is the result.

      the advice you shared about tending to a stunned bird is very helpful. thanks for sharing.

      Sending Angels your way this morning. :) ps