Disclosure: Some links may be affiliate links. If you buy an item via links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
Shocking figures tell us that as many as 1 billion birds die in the USA alone each year as a result of flying into a window. Although a more accurate study showed that this number could be slightly lower, between 300 and 900 million. In any case, these are worrying statistics. And this doesn’t include birds that fly into windows and sustain an injury because only 54% to 74% of window collisions are thought to be fatal.
But while there is a long way to go in helping to make the world safer for birds, you and I can make a start at home. There are several things you can do to improve visibility for birds and lower the risk of them colliding with a window.
Why Do Birds Fly into Windows?
A window might seem blindingly obvious to a human who would simply avoid it but for birds, they may not be as easy to spot. The transparent glass of a window can sometimes appear to a bird as a continuation of where they are flying. In short, they believe that they are flying into open air. Since the window will often reflect the surrounding area, this confuses the bird and they can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what is merely a reflection.
Humans unknowingly add to the problem by adorning their windows with things like lights, decorations, and even bird feeders. These things attract birds who then collide with the window, not realizing it was even there in the first place. If these decorations are on the other side of the glass, the bird may simply be trying to access them without realizing there is a barrier in the way.
Tips to Prevent Bird Window Collisions
If you want to ensure that as few birds are injured as possible around your home, then there are ways you can prevent window collisions. Where possible, it is best to use a combination of these suggestions as this will be much more effective than using just one.
1. Use a Highlighter Pen to Draw Patterns on Your Windows
The best way to stop birds from flying into the window is to draw more attention to them so that the bird can see they are not merely a continuation of the surrounding habitat. The most effective way to do this is by using a highlighter pen to make patterns on your windows. It’s best to do this on the outside as it will be more visible to the birds.
Before you begin, you should clean the window to prevent any dust or dirt from clogging the highlighter. Then choose your color; the great thing is that most highlighter pens are within the color spectrum that birds can see.
You will then draw lines across the window, some horizontally and some vertically so that you form a grid-like pattern. Keep in mind that the horizontal lines should be no more than two inches apart, while the vertical ones should be no more than four inches apart. This stops the birds from thinking that the grid spaces are a potential opening.
Reapply the highlighter every few weeks to stop the colors from fading.
2. Cover Windows with High-Visibility Decals
Another great way to make the windows less confusing for birds is by adding decals or stickers to the outside of the windows. There are several options for this according to your preference.
For example, a good way to deter birds from coming anywhere near the windows is to apply predator shaped decals. Do keep in mind that these aren’t always effective as local birds are smart enough to realise that the decal doesn’t move and will eventually stop seeing it as a threat.
However, if you prefer something that will remain unseen to human eyes, it’s possible to purchase bird alert stickers which are transparent to us but will glow when looked at by birds. By clustering them together, you make an even more obvious statement. Just make sure that you clean the window before applying anything to ensure that the stickers adhere properly.
3. Block Reflections by Using Sun Blinds or Shutters
One of the biggest reasons that birds fly into windows is because they see the reflection as just another part of the surrounding environment. But if you can block these reflections, then this could massively reduce the number of bird collisions.
Using things like curtains, shutters, blinds, and other window dressings, the birds are easily able to see that the window is a solid obstacle.
Of course, you want to let natural light into your home, so you don’t have to have the window dressings in place all the time. It’s particularly important during times of heightened bird activity, such as when they are migrating, and also a great method when you have interior lights on.
If you are going to fit an exterior shade then make sure you do this between 2 and 3 inches away from the window itself. In the event that a bird did still fly into it, it would simply bounce off rather than collide with something solid.
4. Fit Bird Tape to Windows
Bird tape is a type of transparent film which can be applied to the window making it appear opaque from the outside. However, from the inside, you will still be able to see out, so you won’t lose your view of the garden. Plus, it can improve your privacy, which is never a bad thing!
These tape products come in a range of shapes and sizes, including strips and squares, so you can choose something to suit your needs. They’re self-adhesive and very easy to install. You simply cut the tape to size, peel off the backing, and stick it to the window.
5. Apply Soap or Tempera Paint to Your Windows
Tempera paint is great if you want to let your creative juices flow at the same time as helping to protect local birdlife. This paint can be applied directly to the window in a range of colors and designs. Some people like to free-hand draw, while others make use of stencils to create a pattern. Although using the line technique we discussed earlier is also incredibly effective.
In any case, the paint will reduce the reflection of the window and make it more visible to birds. It’s excellent because it doesn’t wash off easily and is resistant to weather, so is a long-lasting option. The same results can be achieved by applying soap to the window and drawing those 2 x 4 grids.
6. Reposition Bird Feeders
While you may have had all good intentions when placing your bird feeders near a window, this could cause problems for your feathered friends. There are window feeders, which are typically ok as the birds will fly into the feeder as opposed to the window. The birds will usually slow down in order to access the food, so even if they did collide, the chances of it being fatal would be much lower.
However, you should be mindful to place other types of bird feeders as far away from any windows as possible. The minimum distance you should hang a bird feeder from a window is 3 feet but do make sure you’ve still got a good view so you can observe the birds.
7. Draw Your Curtains in the Evenings
As we have already discussed, using shades, curtains, and other types of window dressings can massively reduce reflections. During the evening, when you have lights on inside the house, birds may be attracted to these lights and attempt to fly through the window to access them. Of course, they don’t realize it is a solid surface until it is too late.
By ensuring you close your curtains of an evening before switching on any lights, you can further aid in the prevention of window collisions.
It’s also important to note that if you have windows that provide a direct line of sight to other windows, this could look like a flight path for the birds. Having your windows covered with curtains will prevent this.
8. Turns Off Unnecessary Lights
Since lights could attract birds and cause them to fly into your windows, it is important to make sure that you do not have lights on unnecessarily. The fewer lights there are, the less likely birds will be attracted to the windows.
Buildings that are brightly illuminated can be incredibly confusing for our feathered friends, not to mention all those lights will push up the cost of your energy bill.
9. Keep Houseplants Away from Windows
Putting a houseplant in your window might seem like a good idea for the sake of your plant but it can be detrimental to local birdlife.
Birds use plants for a whole host of reasons, including for food and shelter. Combine their need for plants with the reflections that confuse them so much and you’ve got a recipe for disaster since the birds will aim for the plants.
Where possible, try to keep your houseplants away from windows and find another source of natural light for them. This applies especially to larger, more obvious plants, which should be at least four to five feet away from the window.
10. Hang Wind Chimes or Wind Spinners near Your Windows
Decorative spinners and windchimes are a beautiful addition to your home, even without considering birds. But they can also serve as a way of deterring our winged friends from colliding with your windows.
It is again important to space these items no more than two inches apart so that birds don’t confuse them with a crevice or hidey hole.
Moreover, windchimes are noisy, which can serve as a way of deterring birds. Opt for those that make as much noise as possible as that will also glisten when they are moved by the wind. Metal windchimes work particularly well.
What to Do If a Bird Hits a Window
While the things we have discussed in this guide can go a long way in preventing window collisions, they aren’t 100% foolproof. There may still be occasions when you discover a window collision victim, and it’s important to know what to do.
Primarily, you will need to examine the bird to check for any obvious injuries. Make sure that the bird’s eyes appear to be working well and check that the wings are intact and not dangling. If everything seems OK, you can try to see if the bird can perch unaided.
However, if the bird does have any injuries, it will not be able to recover alone, and you will need to call a local wildlife rehabilitator. While you wait for them, you should place the bird into a dark box but do not offer any food or water.
While you will need to keep the bird warm, you don’t want it to overheat, so if possible, leave the box outside so the bird can fly off if it can and wants to. If it’s very cold, bring the box inside but keep taking it back out every fifteen minutes to see if the bird will leave. Birds that are just shocked will usually recover quite quickly and go off on their way.
If the bird hasn’t flown off of its own accord within a couple of hours, you can safely say that it needs help, and you should prioritize getting it to an appropriate wildlife rehabilitator who will have the relevant training to correctly help the bird. While it is tempting to try and provide help yourself, this is often ineffective and could do more harm than good.