By: Lisa Horn, Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP)
Birds have been hard at work this summer. They have built intricate homes to house their precious eggs, vigorously defended their territories from pesky intruders, and kept up with the bottomless appetites of their cheeping, demanding babies.
And now these birds, from the bold and beautiful ruby-throated hummingbird to the secretive and subdued Swainson’s thrush, must embark on their awe-inspiring and perilous migrations. As they touch down to rest and refuel in urban parks and woodlots, and even your backyard, they may encounter one of the biggest bird killers: glass.
Although bird-window collisions happen at all times of the year, they happen much more frequently during migration. Millions of birds are passing through urban areas this fall, including all of the youngsters hatched this summer who are making this flight for the very first time.
You might be surprised to learn that the majority of the estimated 25 million birds which die from hitting windows each year in Canada are killed at single family homes. But you can help birds arrive safely at their winter homes by making simple changes at your home.
1. Help Birds ‘See’ Glass by Installing Visual Markers
Instead of seeing glass as a potential barrier, birds see reflected images of habitat and sky, or simply a clear passageway. By adding visual markers, we can alert birds to the presence of glass, allowing them to safely avoid a collision. This is the single most important step you can take to prevent bird strikes at home.
From commercially available dot treatments, to hanging ribbons or string, to adding your own temporary window art, there are many easy, affordable and attractive techniques at your disposal.
The key is to make sure markers are spaced closely enough, cover the entire surface of the window, and are installed on the outside of the glass. Markers should be separated by no more than 5 cm, or 10 cm if they run vertically.
2. Prevent Fatal Collisions by Relocating Bird Feeders
Many people enjoy feeding birds at their homes, but did you know that houses that feed birds have higher rates of bird-window collisions than houses that don’t feed birds? This is because feeders attract birds closer to buildings, where they inevitably encounter glass.
But that doesn’t mean you should stop feeding birds. Move your bird feeder (and other bird attractants like bird baths) as close to the window as possible so that birds can’t build up enough momentum to hurt themselves. Half a meter or closer is best. Bonus: you (and your indoor cat) will get a front-row seat to all the action!
3. Remove Deceptive Perches by Moving House Plants
Plants placed near windows can look like an attractive perch or refuge for birds, with fatal consequences. Keep house plants away from windows, and draw your blinds shut during the day with the slats open to create some visual noise.
Birds need your help at this time of year more than ever. By implementing these tips, you can help make sure that your home is not the premature end of a bird’s migratory journey.
To learn more, visit birdsafe.ca.