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Eastern Kingbird by Mike Benkis

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Prevent window strikes--it's for the birds

The numbers are staggering. Somewhere between 100 million and 1 billion birds die every year flying into windows. That’s the bad news. The good news? There are steps each of us can take to make it easier for birds to navigate what have become increasingly unfriendly skies.

Why do birds fly into windows?

 Could be a matter of biology. Bird Life International notes that birds’ eyes sit on the sides of their heads. The nearly 360-degree view enables them to detect potential predators, mates, and competitors but can prove lethal when they fail to focus on that pane of glass lurking dead ahead. Reflections of trees and sky compound the confusion as birds try to fly through glass to get to foliage or feeders – or attack the bird they see barreling toward them. After dark, unnatural light disrupts flight patterns, especially among migrating birds. Drawn to the light, they crash into buildings and even into other birds. Interestingly, resident species are not as susceptible to this hazard as migratory birds, perhaps because they’re more familiar with the territory.

What can you do to try to prevent window strikes?

•      Install window screens. In addition to providing a physical buffer, screens diminish reflections – but they’re effective at preventing or mitigating collisions only if they’re installed outside the window.

•      Change the way your windows look. Apply decals, bird tape, Acopian Bird Savers, or one-way transparent film to reduce reflections. Predator decals have not proved effective, by the way. To achieve optimal results, follow the directions included with the solution you land on.

•      Go dark. Switch your lights off when you don’t need them. Use exterior lighting to enhance safety, not appearance, at night.

•      Move your bird feeder. Sometimes, moving your feeder closer to or away from windows encourages safer flight paths.

•      Support bird-friendly building design. Audubon and other conservation organizations, such as American Bird Conservancy, promote architectural techniques that result in long-term solutions.

•      Advocate for legislation. Whether you’re arguing for bird-friendly design to be included in local ordinances or encouraging conservation, putting bird safety on legislative agendas can have a lasting impact.

Here’s how to help a crash victim

Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology offers this advice for coming to the aid of a feathered friend who has flown into a window.

1.    Examine the bird for external injuries. If its wings and eyes seem normal, watch it to see if it can perch in a branch without your help. If it can, your job is done.

2.    If the bird’s injuries are obvious, call a local wildlife rehabilitator,            

Raptors: Call 866-888-7261 to speak to a Raptor Recovery volunteer.

Non-raptor: Call Nebraska Wildlife Rehab at (402) 234-2473. While you’re on the way to the rehabber, put the bird in a dark container, such as a shoebox, to keep it away from pets and predators.