Saving Broken Beaks Without Breaking the Bank
Let there be light! We’ve put windows into our homes for a reason. We want to have an unobstructed view of that beautiful, bright outside world. For us, the bigger and clearer the better. Birds, on the other hand, don’t see our windows as favorably as we might. In fact, most of them don’t see glass at all. Although we can tell the difference between a window and a walkway, many of our feathered friends do not. The problem is, these events are often much worse for the birds than just a confusing collision. They can be very harmful, painful, and even worse - fatal. Up to 1 billion birds die from flying into windows each year in North America. That’s BILLION – with a ‘B’. For each human, that's three flying, feathered, living creatures killed every year. We’ve put together some tips and tricks to help keep the birds clear of your windows and alive.
Why Do Birds Collide With Windows?
Urban environments with large glazed surfaces on high-rises are very confusing to birds. Most bird collisions happen at night time due to artificial lighting. Flocks of migrating birds colliding with high-rises have drawn attention by generating headlines. Low-rise suburban buildings, however, account for a much higher percentage of collisions. While individual collisions are not as evident, they happen more often. Birds collide with glazed surfaces for the following reasons:
Birds See Through Windows
Visual transmission through glass offers a direct line of sight from one wall opening to another. Since birds do not perceive glass as a barrier, they will attempt to fly through. Moreover, spaces with indoor plants appear as an inviting habitat to birds. You can reduce the chances of a bird colliding with a window using textured or sanded glass for your window panes, or by obscuring it with window treatments like curtains and blinds.
Birds Are Tricked by Mirrors
A reflection of a tree, sky, or habitat is something that birds cannot quite differentiate from reality. Reflections create surfaces that are visually confusing to birds and pose a danger to them. Even glass with regular reflectivity acts as a mirror when it is bright outside and dark inside. While there is low-reflectivity glass, it is a niche product with a high price tag. Textured glass would have to be installed with the texture facing outside, which makes the window more difficult to clean. Therefore, external window coverings like shutters are the most effective remedies against birds colliding into reflective glass.
Birds Are Drawn Towards Light
Birds use the sky and ambient light levels to aid their navigation. At nighttime, this causes collisions as interior lighting, especially in spaces that look like a potential habitat, attracts birds. Artificial lights, particularly those that are not directed downward, can also lure birds to fly around them to exhaustion. Addressing light pollution by turning off unneeded lighting at night, apart from saving energy and giving you a better sleep, will also help save birds. Obscuring interior views with window treatments can also dissuade them from attempting to fly inside.
So what can you do to help save more feathered lives? Read below to find out.
Specialty Bird-Safe Glass
Some glass manufacturers have developed specialty glass to prevent bird collisions. It relies on glass etching ( Aviprotek from Walker, Bird1st™ Etch from Guardian, SkySafe from Skyline), ceramic frit ( First Surface Frit from Goldray, BirdSafe from Glas-Pro, or LumiFrit from Bendheim), as well as opaque or UV laminates ( Bird1st™ UV from Guardian) to create visual markers on glass. These markers are spaced at most 2 inches apart to dissuade birds from attempting to fly between them. This specialty glass is used mostly for commercial and institutional applications.
DIY Window Bird-Proofing
Glass with permanent treatments don’t have a widespread adoption among homeowners due to high prices and poor match for most home styles. One would be reluctant to install windows that could decrease the home resale value. Where existing window treatments and lighting control cannot help, one can make their windows safer for birds using simple DIY methods. Here are a few solutions:
Window Chalk Markers
If you’re an artist, maybe this idea has already crossed your mind. And if you have children, this idea has likely already crossed theirs. This time, the markers and paint were designed for glass.
Drawing a nice summer scene or a family portrait on your window is a good way to deter any birds from mistaking your windows for a shortcut through the house. Many companies produce glass and mirror-safe markers and paint. The markers go on wet, but dry to a chalky finish, giving them the name chalk markers. The paints are oil-based for easy removal. Once dry, these paints and markers won’t come off on your clothing or skin, but a quick wipe with a wet cloth or glass cleaner will have your windows looking like a brand new canvas for your next artistic installation.
An alternative to chalk markers that you may find helpful if you don’t want to ruin your view is UV markers. When these markers are used, a fluorescent (but virtually transparent) ink is left on your windows. Many birds can see UV light that humans can not. This solution is wonderful, but keep in mind, not all birds can see the UV spectrum.
Pro Tip: Draw on the exterior of your window as reflections can make interior drawings less effective. This may not be as long-lasting, but will set the scene for your next chef d'oeuvre sooner, and will be much more visible to birds.
Feather Friendly® Window Markers
A company named Feather Friendly has created an adhesive strip tape that will leave very small dots along the outside of your window. These dots are spaced 2 inches apart and obstruct the view for humans less than many of the alternatives. These adhesive dots have proven their effectiveness so that the Canadian Wildlife Federation headquarters and the Toronto Botanical Gardens use them. If you want to go this route, keep in mind that you don’t want to install window markers on dirty or wet windows, so first make sure you give the exterior a good cleaning, and let them dry. You’ll also want to wait until it’s a little cooler for installation, so keep the strips indoors until you’re ready to install.
Automotive Pinstriping Tape
This one is something you may already have around your house. Vinyl pinstriping automotive tape is great to create your own grid on the window because it’s more rigid and durable than similar-looking tapes. You know the stuff, used to give those curves on your vehicle a little extra detail. It’s thin enough to be less-invasive for your sight lines, while being durable enough to create a more permanent option to keep the birds safe. While the first few options are less obstructive, this method can be a bit less visually appealing to some. The trade-off is it’s likely the most effective method to prevent birds from flying into your windows. Make sure you leave no more than 2 inches between your vertical tape lines, or the birds might see the spaces as a challenge!
Finally, you can use exterior window screens – so check the Bird Screen . Not to be confused with a screen that’s made to prevent bugs from getting into vents and openings. This bird screen is much closer to the screen used in a screen door. Generally applied to windows using suction cups, these screens stay 2-3 inches away from your window and create a cushioned impact for birds in the event they don’t see the screen. Because of the gap, if any birds accidentally fly into the screen, they are bounced back without causing harm. The installation of a bird screen is simple, and allows your windows to remain virtually unobstructed from the inside.
We also note that some ideas do NOT work. The most common ineffective measures are silhouettes of hawks ,owls, cats or other bird predators, as well as tape, string or ribbons spaced more than 2 inches apart. Treatments done to the interior of your window may also not reduce the reflectivity of glass. Keep that in mind when making the decision that’s best for your home and for the birds.
There you have it! Our definitive list to keep our birds in the skies. There are a handful of other ways to bird-proof your windows, but these are the methods we find to be most effective, at the lowest cost.