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Home Bird Strike Prevention

Updated on January 13, 2016
Sherry Thornburg profile image

Writer, photographer and birding enthusiast, Sherry Thornburg writes about birding and birding related topics.

Morning Dove after a Window Strike
Morning Dove after a Window Strike | Source

Bird Strikes

That thump was a bird strike. Bird strikes are just that, a bird striking a solid object, such as your windows or some other object that was in its flight path. This has been the bane of human building since clear pane glass was created. The tragic terrible thump doesn’t happen all the time; just in the spring and fall. But it may happen often enough that you keep a shoe box in the closet just for stunned victims.

Either way, it’s upsetting and you look at the window again and wonder what to do to keep it from happening.The problem is that flying birds have a recognition problem when it comes to clear or colored reflective surfaces.

Birds Just Don’t Get Windows

Our feathered friends will fly full speed right into a window, even when the curtain is drawn, and often will mistake their own reflections for an intruder and attack them. Plants inside windows look to a bird like a handy bit of cover to land on. Windows that reflect the most will fool birds the worst creating the appearance of a continuance of nature where there isn't. It’s a menace, a dirty trick to put something solid up that mimics open space.

Maybe, but we love our windows and are not going to do without them, so what do we do? This problem isn't a constant. The migration seasons from March to June and August to November are the worst times for birds and windows. These are some measures to take that may help. They are offered in descending order of effectiveness.

Cellophane Tape Stripe on a Small Window
Cellophane Tape Stripe on a Small Window | Source

Get It Yourself: Decorative Window Film

Get It Yourself: Bird Warning Stickers

Bird Strike Prevention

1. Window Screens – Full window screens will take care of the problem. They retard reflections and present a material that the birds won’t try to fly through or land on. Some windows only allow for the lower half of a window to be screened, but screen materials can be hung from the top of the window and allowed to hang down. Breezes blowing the material around will also alert birds to the window's presence.

2. Patterned Plexi-Glass – Do you have a large pane window that is regularly hit by birds? A good permanent option is to overlay plexi-glass or permanently change the window glass. Doing it yourself, involves affixing the plexi-glass directly over your window using adhesive or tape. Decorator plexi-glass comes in many patterns to give a special interest to the room and privacy without losing much ambient light. Permanently changing out your glass may require a professional. The best part is, the window is no longer transparent to the birds will see and avoid it.

3. Stick on Barriers – There are a number of peel-and-stick films available in home improvement stores that will birds a clue and give your windows a decorator look. I have a stained glass film over my kitchen windows to present a solid surface for birds to avoid. Small decals can also be used. Birds see the decals as obstacles. There are decals made specifically for the purpose that reflect ultra-violet light out. Birds see more of this type of light than we do. For a temporary fix, vertical stripes of cellophane tape placed two inches apart will work too. Just pull them off at the end of the season.

Plastic Wrap Crinkled to Warn Birds of the Window
Plastic Wrap Crinkled to Warn Birds of the Window | Source

4. Tempra Paint – This is the non-toxic paint used in children’s crafts. It can be used instead of decals in artsy patterns to warn birds of a solid surface they can’t fly through. It will easily wash off later.

5. Plastic Wrap – This is a quick and dirty alternative to installing the other products. As seen the the photograph, it does get rid of reflections and mimics a solid surface for birds. You will need to crinkle it up before taping it to windows to maximize its effect. I have tested this one, and it works great.

6. Break up the Reflections - One suggestion I have seen in my research was to put post-it notes at intervals on the outside of a window. This method won’t last as wind and rain will tear them off, but it’s a quick stopgap when dealing with a temporary problem such as a territorial bird fighting with its reflection. You might try this on your car if you have a bird fighting with its reflection there too.

7. Leave Them Dirty – This suggestion comes from birding organizations. Dirty windows don’t reflect as bad and the dirt warns the birds of a solid surface. Mind you, it would take a lot of dirt to make this effective.

Birds Fighting Reflections in Car Finish

I have been hearing more and more about confused birds that attack the roofs of cars, rear view windows and bumpers because they see their reflection. This will happen more often in the spring due to mating season territorial responses. Cardinals are bad about doing this. If you live in an area with a peacock colony, you know all about it.

Peacocks, unlike smaller perching birds have the higher competitive problem of gathering a harem during mating season so competition is much more fierce. They also have heavy duty talons and can do serious damage to a car. Both Cardinals and Peacocks are known to attack reflections for hours when driven by hormones. They have been known to injure and exhaust themselves doing this.

The leave it dirty suggestion may help somewhat, but the main way to protect your car and these confused birds is to cover your vehicle. I only suggest this if you notice a bird going to battle on your car. Cover the vehicle with a tarp, Cover the the window or mirror the bird is attacking with a plastic trash bag or window visor. Do whatever you can to stop the attack as soon as possible. As soon as the perceived competitor is no longer visible, the attack will cease.

Bird Facts

Cardinals are the worst offenders for picking a fight with their own reflections. It is a territorial response usually occurring in the spring.

The Final Word

These are only a few of the suggestions I found during my research. See what works best for you. If you love birds and cringe when that thump happens, a little effort will be worth the peace of mind.

Resources: Visit this birdwatchingdaily.com feature containing 15 products to prevent window strikes

The Audubon Society produced this brochure, Birds and Windows.

© 2015 Sherry Thornburg

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