5 tips on how to stop birds from crashing into your windows
HAMLIN, Iowa — While many people awaken every morning to the sounds of birds chirping, Christine Jensen wakes up to a very different bird sound.
"Thud! ... Thud! ...Thud!"
Every morning the same cardinal tries to fly into her den window — not once, or even twice but over and over again. Each time, the bird sits on the branch of a nearby tree, cocks its little head and stares into the home.
Seconds later, it takes flight and crashes into the glass. It falls out of sight only to rise again seemingly unfazed for another attempt. (Watch the video to see the bird in action — crashing six times in less than one minute.)
"Greg (Jensen's husband) was up about 6:15 this morning and he told me the bird persisted with this for 45 minutes," Jensen says.
The Jensens aren't alone with this bird problem. While some people living in homes with a lot of glass say the birds in their yard are on "concussion protocol" from repeated crashes, the phenomenon became most newsworthy with the recent construction of U.S. Bank Stadium, the new home of the Minnesota Vikings.
According to a report by the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, between August and November 2016, at least 60 birds died from colliding into the 200,000 square feet of glass at the stadium. Another 14 birds during the period studied appeared dazed. The chapter says the number is probably even higher since it doesn't account for birds killed and disposed of by stadium employees.
Ornithologists say birds fly into windows most of the time because they see reflections of outdoor vegetation in the glass and don't perceive the window to be a barrier in trying to reach it. Other times — especially in the spring when territoriality is high — they perceive their own reflection in the glass as another bird and attempt to attack it.
No one likes to see the birds crash, whether you're a homeowner in Hamlin, Iowa, or the owner of a professional football team in Minneapolis. The Jensens have tried to remedy the problem — with little success.
"I put up a piece of cardboard on the window," Jensen says. "I even cut out the shape of an owl and put it into the window. It would work for awhile, but the bird just found another window to crash into."
The Audubon Chapter and the American Bird Conservatory have made suggestions to the Vikings that could work not just for stadiums, but for homes such as Jensen's. It's best to think about bird safety prior to construction of a building, but here are five suggestions homeowners can try to prevent bird/window collisions.
1. Put grid patterns on windows
With tempera paint or even soap, make a grid pattern on the outside of the window. The size of the grid you make depends upon the size of the birds colliding with the window. A pattern of four inches vertically and two inches horizontally works for most birds. However, if hummingbirds are the problem, try a two- by two-inch grid.
2. Cover windows with decals
They're not just for decorating anymore. Decals, stickers, and masking tape placed on the outside part of the window have been proven effective in preventing crashes. However, one or two stickers on a window will not work. They should nearly cover the window if they are to work in stopping the birds.
3. Utilize mosquito screens
Placing a bug screen on the outside of the window has shown to decrease the number of bird collisions because it cuts down on the reflectivity of the glass.
4. Install netting
By placing netting taut over the outside frame of the window, birds will bounce back rather than crash into the glass. But it's important to choose very small netting (⅝ inch or 1.6 centimeters) so birds don't get caught and injured.
5. Try bird-aversion products
With a problem as big as this — an estimated 600 million birds die annually from window collisions — companies have found products to sell, including ABC Bird Tape, "Zen Curtains" or one-way transparent film. Each has some efficacy in preventing bird collisions.
Jensen says she's ready to try one of these methods in the hope that eventually the only bird sound she'll hear every morning is chirping.
What to do to help a window collision victim
According to the website, All About Birds, here's what you should do if you find a bird stunned after colliding with your window.
- If the bird's wings are intact and its eyes seem normal, leave it alone. It will recover on its own.
- If it has a noticeable injury, carefully place it in a shoebox with a lid. Keep the box away from predators (or even your nice cat or dog). The dark, quiet environment will help the bird recover faster.
- Do not give it food or water.
- Do not open the box in the house to prevent the bird from escaping.
- Every 15 minutes, take the box outside and open the lid to see if the bird will fly away on it's own.
- If the bird does not fly away on it's own after a couple of hours, contact a wildlife rehabilitator. An online directory is available to find one in your area.