Each year, thousands of birds are injured or killed after flying into or attacking a window. Birds fly into windows either because they are unable to tell that the window is there or their reflection causes them to try to defend their territory.
What backyard birders can do to minimize window strikes
Assess the bird’s-eye view of the outside windows of the house. Look to remove anything that would give birds the impression that there is no barrier to the glass. Conversely, consider adding decorative window film or fine-mesh netting to windows to make them more visible. Awnings and window screens are also effective in changing or eliminating the reflection in the window.
House and car windows can be mirrors to birds, triggering a territorial response to the bird’s own reflection. Territorial window crashing peaks during the nesting season. Backyard birds that see a bird of the same species in its breeding or feeding territory will instinctively attack the other bird – leading them to crash into the window.
Making the window less reflective during nesting season will help to stop this behavior. Consider lightly soaping or attaching decorative film to the window during the nesting season. Stick-on silhouettes of hawks, falcons or owls on outside of window are also effective in limiting window strikes. Transparent commercially produced versions are available here, or you can download and print a free bird strike deterrent pdf here.
Directing traffic away from windows also is helpful in reducing window strikes. Move feeders, baths and fountains away from large picture windows.
What to do if a bird crashes into your window
Many birds that hit windows and appear to be dead are merely stunned. A dazed bird should be examined for external injuries. If the wings are both held properly, neither dangling, and the eyes seem normal, see if it can perch in a branch unassisted. If so, leave it to recover on its own.
If the bird cannot perch, leave the bird on the ground or place it inside a small cardboard box, giving it time to recover. To protect it from predators, keep any cats away from the bird, and locate it in a quiet and dark place for about 15 minutes.
If the weather is extremely cold, you may need to take it inside, but don’t keep the bird too warm. Do not try to give it food and water, and resist handling it. The darkness will calm the bird while it revives, which should occur within a few minutes unless it is seriously injured. Do not open the box indoors to check on it. Take it outside every 15-minutes or so and open the box—if it flies off, that’s that! If it doesn’t recover in a couple of hours, take it to a wildlife rehabilitator.
If the bird has a noticeable injury, get it to a wildlife rehabilitation specialist as quickly as possible. Broken bones usually need proper attention within minutes or hours to heal properly without surgery.
Use this online directory to find a wildlife rehabber near you. Remember that, technically, it is illegal to handle a migratory bird without a permit.
For information about what to do if you find a nestling or baby bird that fallen from its nest, click here.