Urban Wildlife Encounters: Birds and Windows

Photo courtesy CBCM (http://www.birdmonitors.net/)

Photo courtesy CBCM (http://www.birdmonitors.net/)

The temperatures are warming up and the grass is growing taller which means we are all going to be outside.  Whether doing house maintenance, yard work, gardening, or hiking, do you know what to do when you have an unexpected encounter with wildlife?

Some of the most common calls I used to get when I was the Urban Wildlife Biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation had to do with undesirable encounters with wildlife.  These encounters included everything from those pesky cardinals beating themselves against the picture window in the dining room to squirrels and raccoons in the attic.  Birds hitting windows are a common occurrence in most neighborhoods and even for commercial buildings.  Cardinals, those brilliant red birds, have a reputation for being persistent in their attacks on windows during the spring breeding season.  So, why are they doing this and what do you do about it?  Most of the time, it’s because they are seeing their reflection in the window and consider the reflection to be another bird attempting to hone in on their territory.  It can also be that they see actual vegetation such as house plants or the reflection of trees and shrubs outside and think they should be able to fly to it.  Even landscape elements such as lighting can affect birds and cause them to fly into windows.

Whatever the reason, here are a few things you can do to help minimize bird hitting your windows:

  • Check your windows for reflectivity.  Do you have trees or shrubs nearby that they can use to see themselves or the vegetation?
  • Move houseplants away from windows and consider changes to your landscape that would lessen the reflection.
  • Apply silhouettes of hawks to the window.   You can purchase these at most wild birds stores or nature centers.
  • Place mylar tape or other lightweight streamers on the outside of the window.  Mylar tape is shiny silver on one side and bright red on the other and moves easily in a light breeze.  It is generally available at bird stores and even some hardware stores.
  • Let your windows stay a little dirty so that they don’t reflect images as readily.
  • Move bird feeders at least 30-feet away from windows.
  • Utilize shielded outdoor or other dark sky friendly light fixtures.  Turn off unnecessary lights from dusk to dawn from mid-March through early June and late August through mid-November.

To learn more about this topic, go to:

Adubon Society:  http://audubonportland.org/wcc/urban/windows

American Bird Conservancy:  http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/collisions/pdf/collisions_flyer.pdf

International Dark-Sky Association:  http://www.darksky.org/