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Black and white warbler Photo by Sunny Kellner, Sharon Audubon Center

Making windows safe for birds this fall

Nature's Notebook

Whack! The sudden and dramatic sound against your living room window brings you hurrying in to see what occurred.

As you look toward the ground, you see something – a bird! – and rush to its aid, hoping it didn’t hit hard enough to kill it. You have seen this happen in the past, where a bird hitting this exact windowpane was momentarily immobilized before flying off.

This time, however, the spectacularly small black and white bird you hold lies motionless in your hands.

Unfortunately, this experience is not an uncommon one. Window collisions are a leading cause of bird mortality ,behind habitat loss and cat attacks, killing as many as a billion birds annually.

That’s right. One billion. Such a number is borderline incomprehensible.What’s happening to cause such a staggering mortality rate?

Birds cannot see glass. When they look at it, they see one of two things: nothing at all, which might indicate a safe corridor for them to fly through, or the reflection of their surrounding landscape.

Both scenarios are highly problematic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, research has thus concluded that most window collisions occur at residential and low-rise buildings where sheet glass and plastic are widely used, often where good habitat is present.

Collisions tend to increase during spring and fall migration when birds are moving to the wintering grounds, but also during the breeding season when fledglings are learning to navigate their world.

Fortunately, we as homeowners, businesses owners, and people who simply appreciate the joy that birds bring us can take simple steps to reduce window collisions.

The first step is selecting a product that makes glass visible to birds. These include decals, strings, washable window paint, dots, and films that are often inconspicuous to us but highly visible to birds.

Second, the spacing of the items should be no more than 2 inches vertically and 4 inches horizontally to reduce the chance of birds flying through an opening.

These barriers should always be placed on the outside of the window.

For a full list of options to make your windows bird-safe, visit The Acopian Center for Ornithology’s website at: www.aco.muhlenberg.edu

A final step we can take is making our windows safer for birds is considering our bird feeders.

Research recommends placing your feeder either within three feet of the nearest window (so that birds don’t injure themselves upon liftoff) or more than 30 feet away so that feeding birds have plenty of distance to clear the house.

If you have a lot of birds visiting your yard, consider the potential impact of these solutions.

And that’s just in one yard! The cumulative impact for towns across our county, state, and nation could save many millions of birds each year.

Remember that scenario of the small black and white bird? She’s a real bird. Except in the real story, she survived and is currently receiving care in our wildlife rehabilitation clinic at Sharon Audubon Center.

Black and White Warblers will fly as far as Ecuador in South America, where they will overwinter in the lush tropical forests feeding on insects. She may yet have a long journey ahead of her. Let us all do our part to give birds like her a better chance.

To learn about making windows safer for birds, there is a program at the Sharon Audubon Center on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 10 a.m. For more information go to www.Sharon.audubon.org/events.


Bethany Sheffer is Volunteer Coordinator and Naturalist at the Sharon Audubon Center. Vicki Dauphinais of the Litchfield Hills Audubon Society contributed to this article.

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