'Stop the Thunk' Awareness Campaign

Conserve Birds at Home by Helping to Prevent Window Collisions

You know what we mean right?  We've all heard that resounding 'thunk' from time to time.  That sound that makes us cringe, because we know a bird just flew into a window. We peak out and hope that the bird didn't hit too hard and has managed to fly away. Unfortunately, that is often not the case.  And we know that even if a bird flies away that sometimes it may still perish from it's injuries.

The Problem

An estimated 365 million to 1 billion birds die a year from flying into glass windows in the US alone. Window strikes at residential homes account for almost half that number. That number seems nearly incomprehensible, but imagine the few 'thunks' you happen to hear at home and multiply that by every home in the United States.  

The good news is that each and every one of us can make a difference and help prevent this problem.  The solution is simple in concept; break up the reflection on your windows so birds see that they are there. As the American Bird Conservancy, a leader in this area, states, there are 3 main reasons why birds fail to realize a window is in there path:

1) If the light is right, they see the surrounding vegetation reflected in the window.

2) They may see house plants in or near a window and assume there is no obstacle in the way.

3) Windows in eye-shot of one another may appear to be a flyable pathway.

The Solutions

Solutions can be as simple or intricate, cheap or expensive, utilitarian or creative as you want it to be.

Have screens on your windows?  Then you already have some protection!  If you keep your curtains closed you may also reduce the 2nd and 3rd issues listed above, but there will still be times of day that the reflected landscape is visible. 

Thankfully research has been done that gives us guidelines to see significant reductions in collisions. The ideal patterns have maximum distances to keep birds from trying to fly between the perceived 'openings' on a window. ABC reports that spaces should be no more then 4" apart horizontally and 2" apart vertically to ensure that birds don't strike between your 'bird guards'.  

We realize that may mean a lot of 'bird guarding' if you have many windows at home. While we encourage you to do as many as your willing to, we also want people to know something is better then nothing.  Do you have a window where you know birds have hit repeatedly?  Then prioritize 'guarding' that one to start.  It is also worth noting that there are certain times of year when the odds of a collision are higher.  Times during migration (both summer and fall) and during the fledging period are the most likely times to see collisions.  Having preventative 'bird guarding' all the time is best, but if you are willing to have some works of art on your windows just some of the time, that is certainly better then nothing!  Express your artistic side or have the kids participate in some #CreativeConservation and a good #EverydayAction.

If your not feeling artsy there are plenty of commercial products available too. The ABC has reviewed and created different products that are available to buy.  Your local bird shop probably has options you could consider. 

Do you feed birds? Another 'at home' consideration that can reduce window strikes is the placement of your bird feeders.  Research has shown that the optimum distance from a window is either very close, within 3 feet, or very far, 30 feet or greater (source: All About Birds).  In fact, new research suggests that when you feed birds your windows are more likely to be a source of collisions.  So if you love birds enough to feed them, please consider taking steps to protect them from flying into your windows.

If you are looking for other ideas of how you can help birds, check out the Idaho Bird Conservation Partnership or follow them on their Facebook page.

Additional Resources: 

Bird Collisions with Windows: An Annotated Bibliography. Seewagen, C. L. and Christine Sheppard, 2012. Bird collisions with windows: An annotated bibliography. American Bird Conservancy, Washington, DC. 23 pages.

'Why Birds Hit Windows: And How You Can Help Prevent It'. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds.

'Do It Yourself Collision Prevention'. F.L.A.P. Canada.

DIY Bird Collision Coloring Page. Created by James of North Junior High School-Treasure Valley Math & Science Center

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