Four Ways to Make Your Home Safer for Birds

By Elise Brosnan

 The Wood Thrush is particularly vulnerable to collisions with windows. Juan Zamora/Flickr CC by 2.0

The Wood Thrush is particularly vulnerable to collisions with windows. Juan Zamora/Flickr CC by 2.0

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center estimates that between 365 million and 998 million birds die in the United States each year from collisions with windows. This mortality makes window collisions the second most deadly human-made risk to birds, after predation by domestic cats. Birds become confused by the reflections in windows, which mirror an unbounded expanse of landscape or sky. Glassy skyscrapers might seem as if they deserve the blame for all of this mayhem, and it is true that, per structure, tall buildings are more deadly than shorter ones. However, because short buildings vastly outnumber tall buildings, shorter buildings are responsible for a great number of avian deaths. In fact, residences between one and three stories high account for a staggering 44 percent of all fatal collisions, or an estimated 161 million to 439 million deaths yearly. Many species of forest bird have adapted to flying low in tight spaces, which can make a small, low-to-the-ground window just as dangerous as a large high one.

Fortunately, homeowners can accident-proof their windows in multiple ways. Here are some options:

Make Your Windows More Visible

If you choose to do one thing on this list, choose this measure! By disrupting a window’s reflective ability, you are directly reducing the risk to birds. There are many ways to make windows more visible to birds, running from affordable to posh. An excellent list can be found here.

Move Your Bird Feeder Farther Away

It is a good idea to monitor when and where collisions occur so you can reveal patterns of activity. Often collisions occur when birds move to and from popular sites, such as birdbaths and feeders. Moving these objects farther from buildings will reduce risk of injury.

Move Your Bird Feeder Closer to Windows

This approach may seem counterintuitive, but if space does not allow you to move your bird feeder farther from windows, you may be able to help your birds by moving it closer. If the feeder is less than 3 feet away, it is unlikely that any birds will gather enough speed to hurt themselves seriously in a collision.

Know How to Help a Stunned Bird

Although a bird that has just struck a window may appear lifeless, it may instead be only stunned and unable to move. If predators ae active nearby, it is a good idea to monitor a fallen bird until it revives. If your bird is injured, you can get help from a wildlife rehabilitation group, such as the Wildlife Rescue League.