It’s funny how some things in life we never forget. I can remember when my mother forgot to bow as she pedaled around in a trailer with a bowed head and bobbed her head; She hit herself… literally. My brother and I thought it was kind of funny, but in reality, it wasn’t. She had a good knot on her head, but overall, she was just fine.
I bet you also have a memory of someone who bumped into something, maybe a glass door or screen they didn’t see… Even pets succumb to the visual tricks we put on ourselves. Yes, we could laugh at the outcome, if it all ends up being everyone else, but what happens if we really look at the big picture? What I’m really talking about is the picture window, or the glass windows in buildings.
What if something dies from the knockout? The truth is that up to a billion birds die every year after hitting glass surfaces in the United States. Yes, this is correct. According to the American Bird Conservancy, 1 billion birds die every year. So why do birds bump into so many windows? And why is it so often fatal?
Bird collisions occur for two main reasons. They see the glassy reflections of plants, landscapes or the sky as real. Second, birds attempt to access habitats, open spaces, or other attractive, visible features through glass surfaces or freestanding glass.
Being a bird lover, I know that birds are equipped with hollow bones, which makes them lightweight and easy to fly. However, when birds are in flight, they soar through the air quickly, and usually don’t see the glass, so when they hit a window, the impact can result in instant death or serious, often fatal injuries.
Even when the bird is temporarily stunned and is able to fly away, the bird dies many times later from internal bleeding or bruising, especially on the brain. Studies have shown that 50% of collisions occur on home windows, most often during daylight hours.
Another thing we don’t think about is that birds aren’t humans! They do not grow up to learn more about glass and windows. Certainly, we recognize glass and we are familiar with it. Birds are visually different from us, seeing colors and patterns differently. Birds have no concept of a window, a glass wall, or a door.
So if we bump into one or get into one, we know better and can laugh about it, but the bird might not be so lucky. They literally don’t see it coming!
For my poor mom, an ice pack and some ibuprofen helped her out. She did not hit the bowhead trailer again after that accident. But for the birds, what can we do to help them? There is good news. We have learned about our mistakes and how glass reflects; Mirror glass and lighting are deadly and distracting to birds.
New and existing buildings can use screens, various films, and even string or blinds to deter bird collision. But I found a very simple and easy solution: mark the outside of your windows, ie if you can access your windows.
Follow the general rule by researchers. Here it is: To deter small birds, vertical signs on windows should be no more than 4 inches apart and horizontal signs no more than 2 inches across the entire window. If hummingbirds are a problem, the spacing should be reduced to a 2-inch by 2-inch grid. All marking techniques must be applied to the outside of the window.
Now, you can buy tape, film, designs, or do it yourself. Also, thermal paints will work on windows. Other products you can look for are Collidescape and Solyx as well as Windowalert, and I highly recommend checking out abcbirds.org/glass-collisions/stop-birds-hitting-windows for more products and information.
Of course, screens can be installed on exterior windows, and for new buildings, consider a bird-friendly building design. An online brochure is available at abcbirds.org or you can research the options yourself.
Sometimes, just knowing and realizing that glass can be killer and that lights can cause confusion and distraction to our soft-feathered friends can lead to changes in the way we design and develop. May you enjoy all the sounds and sights of spring and summer and the beauty of birds. I hope this information will help save a bird’s life and help you enjoy its magic.
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