This won't be a happy post. The other day my morning was interrupted by a loud "thud" against the window. It wasn't the familiar thump of mourning doves bouncing off the bedroom window and flying away slightly more confused than they were before (these don't seem like very intelligent birds to me). No, it was a much more distressing sound than that.

A quick scan of the area under the window, all the while thinking "please don't find a bird, please don't find a bird", and my fears were confirmed: a bird had been killed after flying into my window.


What saddened me most about this bird death was 1) that it could have been prevented, and 2) this was a juvenile robin that had probably been flying for just a few days at most.

As I held the young bird in my hand, I tried not to think of the life cut short, the energy of the parents wasted in getting the fledgling to this point where its life could really begin. It was difficult though.

Robins seem like pretty grumpy birds to me, often chasing each other away and fighting. They don't have the "boy I love flying!" look in flight of other birds like goldfinches either, but the thought of this young bird missing out on a lifetime of the essence of birdness (flying), well, it saddens me still.

(What made it worse was the fact that while driving back from the country a few days ago, a male cardinal landed on the highway and was struck by my car -- there was nothing I could do in that case, but it still put me in a tender state of mind toward birds these last few days.)

I've often thought that I should do something to protect birds from flying into my windows, as I've seen at least one lifeless bird body next to my house almost every year. It's often the least-common birds too, for whatever reason. I remember when I was a child hearing the thump, going outside and finding a pair of dead cedar waxwings -- a type of bird that I had never seen before but is one of the most beautiful in the Midwest. A few years ago I found an indigo bunting -- I think I've seen this species in my yard only two times in the last fifteen years. Robins are not uncommon like these other birds, but still...

Although there's been no study done on the actual number of window strike deaths that occur each year, it's estimated that between 100 million and 1 billion birds are killed in the US each year. If only the low end number is closer to the truth, that's still a lot of birds -- even if there are an estimated 20 billion birds in the US.

So, what can I do about this -- how can I prevent other birds from flying into my windows? There are several options:

  • ribbons in front of, or decals on the windows to break up the reflected image
  • films applied to the interior or exterior window glass to make it less reflective
  • screens in front of the windows to cushion the bird's impact
  • light-colored window blinds
The ribbons and decals option seems good, but they need to be fairly closely spaced to be effective, possibly making the window difficult to see through. The same with the films -- besides being expensive, they restrict the view through the window to some extent (some are described as "like looking through a screen"). I suppose installing the screens on the outside a few inches from the window is the safest bet, but that takes a bit of work, could be expensive, and how will I wash the windows? (As if I regularly do that.)

For now though, I'll just keep the window blinds lower. The blind was about halfway down when this poor bird died, having struck this big window on the lower half. (I took a close look at that window after the accident, and the lower section was dark and reflected the yard, while the upper part did not.)

Hopefully this bird will be the last one that dies on my windows!

To end this post on a happier note...

...these three house finch babies are just fine! (I haven't been chronicling the finch nest this year, but if you want to see more about them, check out last year's posts.)

Have you done anything to prevent bird deaths from window strikes at your house? What works for you?


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outlawgardener  – (June 12, 2013 at 9:12 AM)  

Oh Alan, I'm so sorry to hear your news. It's always difficult to experience this and two bird deaths in one week is truly sad! Rest in peace little fliers.

For some reason, we've not experienced the window death issue in our current house. Maybe it's because the older glass has imperfections and is wavy distorting the reflection somewhat, maybe because the windows haven't been washed in 15 years; who knows.

Teri  – (June 12, 2013 at 9:35 AM)  

I hate that when it happens. We get quite a few that have done a glancing blow. They will sit and shake their head before flying off, like they're saying "Dang that hurt!"

We have had a few knock themselves loopy. We go out and get them. I put them into a huge yellow pitcher I have. It's our 'recovery room'. I line the bottom with a paper towel 'nest' and put the lid on with it on the 'strain' side over the spout. That way they get air without a chance of getting out.

When we hear a good bit of fluttering (anywhere from 5 minutes to a half hour) we take the pitcher out on the deck and open it up. They fly out when they are ready.

Teri  – (June 12, 2013 at 9:38 AM)  

Oh, there is nothing you can do to stop them from hitting the windows. I've tried decals, a fake owl next to the big window, light blinds. It seems most of the time they hit, they are fighting or get spooked by another bird. They just aren't looking at the wrong moment. (Bird equivalent of driving and texting!)

Curbstone Valley Farm  – (June 12, 2013 at 2:55 PM)  

Oh, Alan, I'm sorry. Earlier this year I had a Hermit Thrush crash into the dining room window. It was surprising because we don't tend to have too many bird strikes against our windows here. That particular bird was lucky. It was stunned, a brief time-out in a covered box, in a darkened room, soon saw it back it to normal.

When it happened though, I had recently cleaned the windows (which is funny, as I rarely ever bother). I noticed when I looked through the dining room window, from the bird's perspective, that I could see clear through the window on the other side of the house in the living room. That's probably what the bird saw, and assumed it could just fly straight through. We're so secluded here we don't have any window coverings, so for now I'm simply refusing to wash my windows. Good luck, I hope lowering the blinds helps (I never had much luck with decals at our last house).

danger garden  – (June 12, 2013 at 11:47 PM)  

Our house and windows are small enough that we don't really attract this sort of calamity, thank goodness. The house I grew up in was in the country had one of the straight through views that CVF (above) refers to, we had to deal with this all the time. My mom hung some vertical beads (it was the 70's) in the front windows which helped. Don't suppose that's an option for you...

Cassidy  – (June 14, 2013 at 3:03 PM)  

That is always a sad occurance. Your photos of the bird are beautiful though! A great tribute.

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