Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Preventing Bird Window Strikes

A bird's eye view of the back door at the hospital

A number of birders have visited the hospital to view the Cedar and Bohemian Waxwings that have been feeding there. They have also had opportunity to see our very well fed Coopers Hawks in action. Our hospital has lots of windows providing natural light that is very enjoyable. The grounds are lovely and it is a good environment for patients and staff, but there is an ongoing danger for birds here.

One of the members of the local birding forum sent me this email last week after he watched the hawk pick up a bird in the doorway.

... the glass door there, is a classic bird killer, could hardly be better designed for the purpose. Even with the signs and so on, there's a clear metre or so of beautifully clean glass showing the nice empty quad beyond, with a good view of sky and even some trees. And of course, the walls angle in on both sides, and there's that canopy above - once a bird is in there, the glass is the only escape route.

I'm wondering if you can ask the hospital maintenance people to do something about this - it wouldn't be difficult. All that is needed is something to make that way look less like an opening, so that the birds at least have a chance - they'll dash to one side or the other, back towards the fruit trees. A screen of some kind, some sort of horizontal blinds to break up the view, would work. I imagine it being hung on the quad side, since there may be complications putting it on the door side.

BTW, you know those stickers that are sold for this purpose? The ones that look like little falcon silhouettes? I don't know if they work - about half the things I read say they do, and half are adamant that they don't. Better to obscure the view completely, by diffusing it somehow.

This is the walkway leading up to the sliding doors. The chapel opposite the door also has reflective windows and the branches of the fruit trees that have attracted the birds is to the right. The Coopers Hawks have a nest in the pines to the left of the picture.

This is the walkway between the second floors of the two sections of the hospital. The courtyard is on the left and windows line the corridor. This is another area that is known for bird strikes because of the double set of windows. There are so many windows here! We had a wonderful maintenance man who really cared about the grounds and the birds. He was recently laid off and as of April 1st, the hospital now has an outside contract for care of the grounds. I couldn't find out who got the contract, but it is unlikely that they will be sympathetic or helpful with the bird problem.

My daughter took this picture of me collecting a couple of dead birds outside my office window. Our window feeders do not seem to be a problem as the types of birds that visit them are not dying. I would be willing to buy some of the bird stickers that are supposed to help make windows safer, but the reviews on them are mixed. Any suggestions would be welcome. It would take forever to get the hospital to consider putting up extra blinds, even if someone else paid for them.

Are the stickers a worthwhile investment? Please comment if you have any suggestions.


  1. No experience here, but I would think they're worth a try. Poor birds.

  2. Oh Gosh, Ruth, I can see from those pictures why you lose so many birds to window strikes. I have the little chickadee window clings on my windows and also used them at a place I worked previously where there were windows on 3 walls of a room. The collisions there didn't stop completely, but there was a noticeable decline. There are also some window clings available now that are translucent to humans but have an ultraviolet coating that birds can see. There are also some screening options that can be used. I'll try to remember and e-mail you some of these links later today (or you can try Googling "bird window strikes" and there are lots of sites to investigate too)

  3. I have heard of a new thing to try to prevent bird strikes, as I have tried all the standard things and find they don't work.

    Here's the new thing: birds see things that show up under black light. Common highlighters show up under black light. Paint the windows with a highlighter in a grid pattern. I'm using a yellow highlighter as we humans don't see that on a window the way you will blue or pink highlighter. The downside is that apparently you have to repeat this fairly often as its flourescence fades fairly quickly.

    I can tell you that closing curtains, falcon decals, etc. do not work.

    Carolyn H.

  4. We have the same problem here with birds that sometimes fly into the windows around the house. When there's a lot of birds such as the waxwings going after the fruit in the Saskatoon Bushes, we've learned to just close our blinds and that works for us. A screen on the outside of the patio door also helps. I hope you find a suitable solution for your situation.

  5. If you put either a light reflecter, a bird sticker or blinds it should prevent birds from hiting the windows.

  6. Many years ago I heard a guy do a great talk on window kills! I can't remember what exactly what he said about the stickers but he did imply that the local hawks have learned to use the windows for killing the songbirds in the area! I am interested to hear what others have to say!

  7. I know this is a huge problem in many places, and Bill of the Birds highly recommends the Featherguard product to help birds be safe. You can check them out at:

  8. Hi Ruth,

    I'm so sorry you witness so many bird strikes. It's sad to see. Many hospitals have similar walkways and lots of windows near courtyards, etc. I don't know if the stickers work or not but I'm hoping they do...

  9. AC- The stickers are not all that expensive. I used to buy stickers to amuse our children. Hopefully these will be useful.

    RuthieJ- Thanks for the email. I am making a list of suggestions and will take them to a bird supply store in the next city.

    Carolyn- Thanks for commenting and sharing your knowledge. I have heard the falcon decals are not that effective. I couldn't even find them last weekend. There were only owl decals available.

    April- The waxwings are having the most problems although I have found one seagull, one cardinal and a junco.

    Birdman- Thanks. The problem is getting the hospital to let me do it.

    Monarch- The hawks have perfected the door trap hunt. They aren't fooled by the windows and the smaller birds don't have a chance.

    Jayne- Thanks for the link. I will check it out.

    Mary- There have to be many buildings that have similar hazards for birds. No wonder the window strike death rate is so high.

  10. Hi Ruth, I'm a couple days late. I'm wondering if your hospital administration or engineering department would be the ones to talk to. They need to know that this doesn't happen all year long, only for a few weeks during early spring and fall, when the sun's position causes the most reflection on the glass. Possibly if they knew this, they would consider some kind of screen to cut down the glare. I wonder how the maintenance people feel about picking up so many dead birds while out cleaning the grounds?

  11. Mary C- It is a nice thought that the hospital administration may help, but in the big picture of their job and responsibilities, this is a non-issue. Not when the hospital is running a deficit. We talked to the remaining men in "engineering" and they just looked amused. And with the outdoor maintenance subcontracted now, there are no outdoor workers with offices on site. The dead birds are being collected by myself and scavenging creatures.


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