Make a Feather Ribbon to Prevent Bird Strikes on Windows
Large plate glass windows can be deadly to birds. Due to the reflections of the sky, trees and other surroundings on large windows, often birds are not able to detect that the reflective surface is solid, which results in them flying directly into the glass. If you have ever seen or heard a bird strike a closed window, and land with a thud below, you probably realize what a devastating effect it can have on the bird. Sometimes the bird is simply stunned, and after a short time, is able to recover and fly off. Other times, the impact is deadly. Many birds have struck our large windows and our neighbors' windows, including a young male cardinal, several hummingbirds who are attracted to flowering plants and feeders filled with nectar that are near the house, a beautiful American Kestrel, and a large domestic goose, who is our neighbors' pet. The goose left a splatter mark on the unbroken window, but thankfully he was able to regain his senses, and with a little help for his hurt leg and bloody bill, he survived just fine, and is now an expectant father goose. The hummingbirds were not as fortunate.
A simple solution to this problem is to break up the reflection by attaching a ribbon or string to the top of the window's exterior, which moves as the wind blows. My neighbors and I have noticed a decrease in the number of bird strikes since hanging the feather ribbons on large clear windows.
The main objective is to create a ribbon that hangs the length of the window with feathers attached to the ribbon, so that the ribbon flutters in the breeze. The reason for using feathers is that birds tend to avoid areas where there are scattered feathers, as this is a sign of danger, indicating the results of another bird who may have been injured there. Another advantage to using feathers is that if you are lucky, you may be able to find natural feathers outside in your yard or surrounding area. This will decrease your costs in making the ribbons. In addition, a feather-gathering walk can be another great activity to learn more about birds and nature.
The supplies needed to create several long feather ribbons can be found in any craft store, and are listed below:
- Craft ribbon (I used 3/8 inch width, for ease of tying)
- A package of craft feathers or natural feathers you've collected
- Small suction cups for each window,
- Hot glue gun
- Glue sticks
To Make A Feather Ribbon
1. To begin, measure the length of each window where you plan to hang your feather ribbons. An exact measurement is not crucial. The important thing is to have the ribbon almost the same length as the window. My windows are 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide, so the 7 ft. length of the ribbon (two feet less than 3 yards) will cover the length and width as it swings across the window when the wind blows. To determine how much ribbon to buy, add all the lengths of your windows together and estimate the yardage needed. My ribbon was sold on a spool in 3 yard lengths, on sale for a bargain price.
2. Using your measurements as a guide, cut the ribbon with scissors into pieces, each the length of each of your windows.
3. Starting with one ribbon, tie a double knot about an inch from the end, in the top of the ribbon. This will be the knot that holds the ribbon onto the suction cup attached to the window.
4. Moving about 8-10 inches down the ribbon, tie a single knot. Before tightening this knot, slip the end of the quill of one of the feathers into the loop, then pull tightly, catching the end of the feather in the knot of the ribbon.
5. Continue to tie the feathers to the ribbon every 8-10 inches. Do not try to keep the ribbon straight while tying the feathers on. As the ribbon begins to twist and spiral, and your knots get tied in random directions, it allows the feathers to fan out in different directions, increasing the chances of a natural balance to your ribbon. If your ribbon is six feet long, you will have approximately five to six feathers tied on the ribbon throughout it's length.
To secure the feathers to the knotted ribbon, use a hot glue gun and inject the melted glue stick from the glue gun around the knot and end of each feather quill.
To hang your finished feather ribbon, tighten the double knot, and slip the ribbon through the hook on the suction cup, or simply tie the ribbon to the hook of the suction cup. Moisten the inside of the suction cup slightly and press it to the top center of the window on the exterior side. Use a step stool or ladder to place the suction cup and attached ribbon as high on the window as you can safely reach.
Enjoy the view through large unobstructed windows, knowing that you are helping prevent many unnecessary bird strikes, by hanging feather ribbons to warn birds of the presence of clear glass windows. It is a simple project that takes very little time or materials, but has an important impact for the safety of flying birds.
If your feather ribbon seems too light and always blows sideways in the wind, you can add weight to it by threading the ribbon through a few craft beads in addition to the feathers, and tying a knot around each bead. Although this can cause the beads to bump against the window, creating a clicking or tapping noise, the noise can be deadened by adding a few soft craft pompoms that are larger than the beads, to cushion the ribbon as it taps the window. Be careful not to make the ribbon too heavy, because it is the varied motion of the ribbon moving across the window that breaks up the reflection to help warn the birds of the solid glass in their path.
Another variation if you don't have many feathers, is to alternate using medium size craft pompoms and feathers. This gives some weight and color, while still using some feathers to create a natural look.
Have fun coordinating colors for your ribbon, feathers and pompoms if you choose to use them. I chose natural colors and used some found feathers to make a ribbon that blended with the natural surroundings, but you can choose whatever colors and materials you like.
For more information:
For more information on ways you can help protect birds around windows, see the article Keeping Birds Safe Around Windows http://www.allaboutbirds.org/Page.aspx?pid=1184 All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology