It’s funny how some things in life we never forget. I can remember when my mom forgot to duck as she walked around our gooseneck trailer and conked her head; she knocked herself out … literally. My brother and I thought it was kind of funny, but in reality, it wasn’t. She had a good knot on her head, but all in all, was alright.
I bet you have a memory too of someone that has run into something, perhaps a glass or screen door they didn’t see … even pets succumb to the visual tricks we lay upon ourselves. Yes, we can laugh at the outcome, if everyone ends up fine, but what happens if we really look at the big picture? What I’m really talking about is the picture window, or the glass windows on buildings.
What if something died from this knockout? The fact is, each year, up to a billion birds die after hitting glass surfaces in the United States. Yes, that is correct. According to American Bird Conservancy, 1,000,000,000 birds die each year. So why is it that birds hit so many windows? And why is it so often fatal?
Bird collisions occur for two primary reasons. They perceive glass reflections of vegetation, landscapes or sky to be real. Secondly, birds attempt to reach habitat, open spaces or other attractive features visible through either glass surfaces or free-standing glass.
Being the bird lover that I am, I know that birds are equipped with hollow bones, which makes them lightweight and easier to fly. However, when birds are in flight, they are zipping through the air fast, and typically don’t see the glass, so when they hit a window, the impact can result in instant death or serious, often fatal, injuries.
Even when a bird is only temporarily stunned and manages to fly away, many times the bird dies later from internal bleeding or bruising, especially on the brain. Studies have shown that 50% of the collisions occur on home windows, and most of the time, it is during the daylight hours.
Another thing we just don’t think of is, birds are not human! They don’t grow up to learn about glass and windows. Sure, we learn about glass and we are aware of it. Birds are visually different than us, seeing colors and patterns differently. Birds have no concept of a window or glass wall or a door.
So, if we hit one or walk into one, we know better and can laugh it off, but a bird may not be so lucky. They literally never see it coming!
For my poor Mom, an ice pack and some ibuprofen helped her out. And she never did run into the gooseneck trailer again after that one incident. But for birds, what can we do to help them? There is good news. We have learned about our mistakes and how reflective glass; mirrored glass and lighting is deadly and distractive to birds.
New and existing buildings can use screens, various films and even strings or blinds to deter bird collisions. But I have found a very simple and easy solution: Mark the outside of your windows, that is, if you can reach your windows.
Follow the rule of thumb by researchers. Here it is: To deter small birds, vertical markings on windows need to be spaced no more than 4 inches apart and horizontal markings no more than 2 inches apart across the entire window. If hummingbirds are a problem, the spacing should be reduced to a 2-inch by 2-inch grid. All marking techniques should be applied to the outside of the window.
Now, you can buy tape, film, designs or do it yourself. Also, tempera paints on windows will work. Other products that you can look into are Collidescape and Solyx as well as Windowalert, and I highly recommend checking out abcbirds.org/glass-collisions/stop-birds-hitting-windows for more products and information.
Of course, screens can be installed on the outside of windows, and for new buildings, consider a bird friendly building design. A brochure is available online at abcbirds.org or you can research options yourself.
Sometimes, just knowing and realizing that glass can be deadly and that lights can cause disorientation and distractions for our fine feathered friends can lead to changes in the way we design and develop. May you enjoy all the sounds and sights of spring and summer and the beauties of birds. I hope this information helps save the life of a bird and helps you enjoy their charm.
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Kelly Riley, best at her job!
Very nice article. I live in the very small town of Rimersburg, Pennsylvania and fortunately I’ve only ever seen a bird fly into a window once in my lifetime. I am truly shocked by the number of birds that have fatal contact with a window.