Migrating Through: Why Birds Hit Windows and How We Can Help

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

 It's that time of year again, birds are on the move. Migration is an exciting time for bird lovers as we get to see many birds move through the region on the way to their wintering grounds. However, this migration poses a number of threats to birds. As more and more areas became urbanized, collisions with windows have become the second-highest cause of bird deaths annually. Up to 90% of those collisions are with home windows. 

Male Yellow Warbler. Photo by Heather Kerrison

Beautiful birds, such as a wide range of warblers, are vulnerable as they make their way through their long migration routes. 

So, why does this happen?

Birds do not understand glass and are attracted to reflective surfaces, especially when they mirror trees or open space. With windows everywhere from our homes, condos and apartments, migration can be very difficult as they try to navigate through our cities. Most of migration happens at night, and weather can actually be a large determinant of how vulnerable birds are to window collisions. With high levels of cloud cover or precipitation, birds descend and fly at lower altitudes, making them more likely to collide with windows. 

“We have taken over the earth and the sea and the sky, but with skill and care and knowledge, we can ensure that there is still a place on Earth for birds in all their beauty and variety – if we want to – and surely, we should.” - Sir David Attenborough 

Our beloved Baltimore Orioles will be taking off until next spring. Photo by Heather Kerrison

More importantly, how can we help? 

1. Make sure your feeders are at the appropriate distance from windows. Many birds will be stopping on their way through. It is best if feeders are 3 or 25 feet from a window. Essentially, if a feeder is very close to a window (3 feet or less) a bird leaving it cannot gain enough speed to hit a window hard enough to cause damage or injury. This is why our Window Feeders are a great option for observing birds closely, as they are unable to fly away from the feeder and into the window. Otherwise, make sure your feeders are about 25 feet away from windows, especially problematic windows that have a lot of reflection

2. Use Window Decals to help birds perceive windows. Window decals break up the reflections that confuse birds and make windows much safer for them. The less space between decals, the better. We carry WindowAlert decals which are great for homes. They have a UV coating and birds see in UV so this helps them become aware of the window. The decals appear like clear stickers to us. 

3. Keep your blinds down or partially closed. Although this is not a completely sound solution, it does tend to cut down on reflection and help in reducing collisions. 

If you are unsure whether or not your windows are bird-safe, take this Homeowner Self-Assessment by FLAP Canada. 

If a bird has hit your window, it is very helpful for research if you report the collision to the Global Bird Collision Mapper, you can get to that here. If you are interested, you can also view the map to see the breadth of the issue. 

Migration is a beautiful and exciting time. Let's all do what we can to safeguard migratory birds and aid them in reaching their final destinations so that we can enjoy them all over again in the spring. 

Happy bird watching! 



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