I was sitting at my desk at work this afternoon when an awful sound echoed through the office. THUD. I didn’t have to be looking out the window to know a bird had just flown into it. I raced outside to check on the little guy, who turned out to be a pigeon. He was sitting in the grass, pretty dazed. I didn’t see any damage to his beak or wings, but the fact that he let me get so close to him worried me. Within 10 minutes he flew away, navigating between some tall trees, and I can only hope he’s all right.
This incident inspired me to do a little research on the topic. Turns out that more than 100 million birds die each year in collisions with buildings and skyscrapers in the United States and Canada.
The good news is we can all do something about these deaths. Here are a few DIY techniques you can try.
- Move bird feeders, bird houses and bird baths. Either move them farther away from large glass areas, or move them closer. Moving them closer may help by preventing birds from getting up to full flight speed before hitting the window.
- Spray fake snow. This reduces reflection.
- Hang a plant outside the window. (A plant inside the window may attract rather than deter birds from hitting the glass.)
- Plant trees or shrubs. Small trees or short shrubs planted in front of your windows will break up the surface reflection of the glass.
- Hang Mylar strips or CDs. Strips of shiny reflective plastic, hung a few inches apart in front of the outside surface of your windows, may work. They will flutter in the breeze and may encourage birds to steer clear.
- Install awnings or plant shade-creating trees near problems windows. By reducing the amount of light hitting the glass, reflection is also reduced.
- Use plastic wrap (i.e., Saran Wrap) or stickers to break up the reflection.
- Place branches in front of your windows.
There are also a variety of commercial products available, such as Window Alert.
Finally, here’s some advice from Bird Watcher’s Digest on how to help a bird who has hit a window.
Carefully pick up the bird and put him in a brown paper bag with the top folded over or a cardboard box with flaps or a lid. Make sure that the bird is upright — prop him up with a supporting circle of paper towels or tissues if necessary. If the weather is very cold outside, bring the bag or box inside to warm up the stunned bird. If the weather is warm, you can leave the bag/box outside, but place him out of reach of pets.
Do not try to give the bird food or water. Leave him alone in a warm, quiet, dark place for a couple of hours — it may take this long for the bird to recover.
Once the bird recovers, you’ll hear him scratching around inside the enclosure. Take the bag/box outside before peeking in case the bird gets out — you don’t want him fluttering around in your rafters. To release the bird, simply open the enclosure and let him find his way out. Resist the urge to handle the bird any more than necessary, and don’t toss the bird into the air when releasing him. If you must hold the bird before releasing him, simply open your hand and he will fly away when ready to do so.
If the bird seems not to be recovering, contact your state or provincial fish and game or wildlife agency, or a local veterinarian for the name of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator near you who might take your bird. Get the bird to a rehab expert as soon as possible, because he will need food, water and perhaps medical attention.