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3 Ways to Effectively Prevent Birds from Hitting your Windows

(And 3 Ways that Don't!)


It's spring migration season! If you haven't heard the birds pouring in already, take my word for it. They're out there. This morning the white crowned sparrows were calling from our butterfly bushes and the black capped chickadees were taking turns having their baths in our backyard pond.

Soon flocks of sparrows, warblers, swallows and more will be showing up in greater and greater numbers as the insects start crawling and the sap starts running. It's my favourite sign of spring! But life can also be deadly for birds on the move. Many will fall prey to hunger if they arrive too soon or too late. Harsh weather systems can ground them for days. Predators take advantage of the large numbers and predictable routes. And some may fall victim to a fatal split-second decision that takes them right into your living room window.

Here's my horror story and the inspiration for this posting: It was March of 2013 and it was our first spring in our new house. I woke up and went to make coffee. I noticed our cat intently staring out onto the patio and 'chirping' excitedly. I looked out the patio door and to my horror discovered that an entire flock of migrating white-crowned sparrows - possibly startled - had tried to cross our backyard in the early morning light and had crashed into our glass patio railing, which was all but invisible. At least 20 birds were on the ground. Some were dead. Others were very stunned. I was devastated. After putting the stunned birds into care, I decided that we needed a solution. That day I went to a local sign shop and asked for scrap outdoor vinyl. They gave me a boxful and I spent two days cutting out bird and leaf shapes. We've never had a dead bird since. Simple! And it looks great. Here's three ways to prevent window deaths in birds.

1. Close your blinds.

Not only will this provide a visual barrier, it'll also keep your house a little cooler. If you like a bright room, use sheer curtains or vertical blinds - they'll still do the trick but let the light in no problem.

Why it works: When the light is right, most light that hits glass goes straight through and is reflected back from whatever is on the other side of the glass. From a bird's point of view, it looks like an open doorway with many feet of room beyond to fly in or land. By hanging fabric just inside the window, the light coming in is reflected off of the fabric near enough to the glass that the bird will not approach at such high speeds.

2. Remove vegetation from directly in front of your window.

You don't need to remove every tree or branch, just the ones directly in front of the window. Imagine your window as a visual path, and keep it cleared.

Why it works: When the light is reflecting off of glass, it reflects the image of what's just outside. A tree or shrub right outside the window makes it appear as if there is a vegetation corridor and may come in for a hot landing.

3. Shade your window

To a bird, it looks like a forest. It tries to fly through the frame and...bam.

Most of the perception problems that result in a bird flying through glass is the angle of sunlight coming through it. The way a window appears changes depending on the angle of light and cloudiness. If you install an awning or shade above your window, you can not only prevent bird deaths but also keep your home a little bit cooler in the summer.

Why it works: By removing glare, you force the bird to see the depth of field - including the glass - correctly with no light interference. Awnings and physical objects may also help cue the bird to slow down long enough that they see they glass coming early enough to swerve.

What else?

There's also lot of products out there, such as bird tape and specialty films. We recommend Zen Wind Curtains from Acopian Bird Savers for style and effectiveness. They even teach you how to make your own on their YouTube channel (very nice, guys!).

What to Avoid:

There's lots of products out there that you can just avoid wasting money on because they're proven to ineffective or could be harmful. These include:

  1. Hawk or predatory bird decals (they're not fooling anyone and are proven ineffective

  2. Most decal kits (which are only effective if you space them no more than 2-4" apart)

  3. Netting (effective in preventing strikes but if used incorrectly can actually kill more birds)

That's it! Thanks for reading. I hope that this season means a lot more birds get to where they need to go safe and sound!

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