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Close Encounters of the Bird Kind!

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind – windows

Words & pictures by Ewa Meyer, EcoUpdate Editor.

Welcome to my new regular column where I’ll be talking about some of the interactions we have with the wildlife in our neighbourhoods, both positive and not, and we’ll be discussing some ways on how best we can deal with them. Previous articles about feeding wild birds, how we’re poisoning birds and the practical way we can ‘Join the Plots’ in our neighbourhoods are listed below under useful links.

While gardening the other day, I heard a loud thud above my head and on looking around, I found a bar-shouldered dove lying on the ground feet in the air. It had crashed into our bathroom window and died almost instantly.

Little wattle bird (juvenile) after crashing into a glass balustrade

Yes – Windows kill birds! 

It made me sad – and guilty too, and I wondered how often bird strikes like this occur and what we can do about it. So I did some research. People don’t tend to talk about it much but over a 12 month period, there are likely more bird deaths from window collisions than from almost any other human activity or structure. In the USA alone it is estimated that up to a billion birds are killed this way each year! In Australia, we don’t have the statistics, but if there was just one bird death per building, we are talking millions. It is so sad when you hear reports about migratory birds which have flown thousands of kilometres and yet died in seconds by crashing into a glass building near their destination.

These days, modern homes tend to have bigger expanses of glass in doors and windows. Like me, people who love birds are attracting birds to their gardens through the provision of water or food. It’s our responsibility to make sure these birds are safe from pets, poisons and glass windows. Try placing the bird bath or feeder up close to the glass, they are less likely to be flying at speed and therefore in danger of a fatal collision. In the event of a crash, depending on the angle or speed of impact, a bird may just be stunned for a few minutes. If it is sitting upright but looks dazed it’s very important to just leave it be, observe quietly from a distance and ensure there are no pets nearby.

This window reflects too many trees.

My neighbours have glass fencing along their upper deck and I’ve noticed rainbow lorikeets flying into it on several occasions. Unfortunately, their cat is often ready to pounce. So if it’s not safe to leave the bird where it is, place it in a cardboard box and take it somewhere quiet, dark and warm for at least half an hour or so. Don’t forget to wear gloves and washhands after handling. If it’s a rainbow lorikeet, be especially carefully not just because their beaks are sharp, but they may carry a disease called psittacosis which is transferable to humans. Pigeons and poultry are also carriers.
If the bird starts moving and is clearly not injured, let it out of the box near a tree and see if it flies off. If not, call Wildlife in Need of Care on 1300 946295. Nat is an expert bird carer and she will advise you on what to do next or recommend a local vet.

What can I do? – I like my view.

Do you have a window or two that’s been a target for bird strikes? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. People just don’t tend to admit it! Clear glass, and especially mirrored or tinted, are invisible to birds. So don’t worry if your windows are a little dirty! I bought some special decal stickers from BirdLife which are invisible to us but birds can see. Early days yet and as I don’t have many bird strikes, it’s hard to tell if they’ve been effective. Birds see the gaps between obstacles, so the closer you can attach the stickers the better.

Scaly-breasted lorikeets outside a window they could never crash into.

Another idea is to change the way that the window looks from the outside. It’s likely it mirrors the sky or trees, so you need to break up the reflection.  I’ve done this by closing the curtains or blinds at a particular time of day but exterior screening is better. Even an insect screen provides a softer surface in case of collision.

If you have a view you don’t want to obstruct, then try hanging several thin cords or ribbons 8cm apart down from the window frame. This is one of the most tried and tested methods. Or you could use a special glass marker pen. It works because it reduces the width of the space that birds see.

And finally – if you’re not too fussy, just don’t wash your windows!

If you have any ideas about what has worked for you, I’d be interested to hear from you. Email me!

Useful links:

Have you see an endangered species in the wild? Would you like to keep native bees? How many birds come to your garden? Join us and learn about our local native species – whether it’s enjoying wildlife encounters in your own garden or helping save threatened species in the bigger backyard of Port Stephens. See our Living with Wildlife webpages.

Why Your Garden Matters – a wild guide to joining the plots in Port Stephens

Stop Poisoning our Wildlife – a call to action that everyone can help with!

Avoid catching Parrot Fever – Psittacosis

Published: 4 Jul 2024