CORVALLIS, Ore. – It starts with a sickening thump against the window. Looking outside you will usually see a dead, dying or stunned bird on the ground.
Birds fly into windows because they may not see transparent window glass for what it is - a solid barrier. Or, they may be intoxicated on fermented fruit.
In the fall and into winter, birds including waxwings and finches flock up and may feast on fruit. And by October or November, the fruit they eat – blackberries, pyracantha or juniper berries, crabapples or mountain ash fruits – may be fermented. These birds may be tipsy, inadvertent victims of alcohol consumption.
Booze aside, predator birds may crash into windows as well. Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s hawks chase songbirds gathered at feeders. These predators or the prey may fall victim to a window.
Windows may reflect nearby shrubs and trees, so a bird may think it is just flying into some vegetation. Instead, it crashes into the glass. Or, a bird seeing its own reflection in the window may think it can fly to where the ‘other’ bird is.
With large picture windows, a bird may be able to see all the way through a building and think that it has a clear flight path through open space.
Houseplants hanging inside a window are another hazard. These may give a bird the illusion that it can fly into the plants. Instead, it flies into the glass.
Here are some techniques to help reduce the hazards from windows to wild birds from Bruce Dugger, the Mace Professor of Watchable Wildlife in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University.
Attach black silhouettes of flying hawks or strips of opaque tape or flagging to windows to make the glass visible to birds. Some people are reluctant to place silhouettes on their windows because it ruins their view outside. Don’t worry, said Dugger.
“There are now window stickers you can buy that take advantage of the fact that birds can see ultraviolet light,” he said. “The stickers are transparent to humans, but reflect ultraviolet light so they are seen by birds.”
Install screens or lightweight netting in front of windows to act as a cushion if birds fly into them. Put up an owl or other raptor statue close to the problem-causing window. Close or partially close your blinds or curtains. Keep houseplants away from windows, as these attract birds.
Move bird feeders either away from windows (20 feet or more) or closer to windows (three feet or closer) to help prevent injuries.
If you find a window-injured bird, here’s what you should do, advises Jeff Picton of the Chintimini Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Corvallis.
If the bird is not in danger from cats or other predators, leave it alone. If you feel the bird might be threatened, pick up the bird gently using a towel. Place it in a well-ventilated box. Put the box into a quiet, dark place such as a closet. Do not try to feed or give water to the bird. Do not handle it further. If you hear the bird moving around, open the container outside and let it fly away if it can.
The bird may be suffering from a mild concussion and recover if it’s left alone out of harm’s way to rest for a while. You may be able to release the bird yourself after it has recovered.
If the bird does not recover in a few hours, contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center for further instructions.