Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Unlucky Window Strike

Missing its mate

The weather remains cold and the ground is still covered in deep snow but local bird activity has increased noticeably. Bird song is heard again as the sun rises and each week new birds are arriving back from their winter migration. Cedar Waxwings are one of my favourite birds and I have been seeing them around over the past three weeks or so.

Today they were feeding on the ornamental crab apple trees on the hospital grounds. At noon, one of my co-workers noticed two Cedar Waxwings just outside one of the back doors of the building. They had struck a window and one of them was dead. The other bird, presumably its mate, was huddled on the ground beside it not moving at all. A couple of hours later the living bird was still there and I was concerned that it was injured.

I had no idea what to do and called our local Humane Society for advice. They offered to come out right away to collect the birds, but I preferred to bring them in myself later in the afternoon if necessary. My friend put the dead bird in a box and then tried to pick up the other one. Fortunately it was able to fly and went to a windowsill before it rejoined the rest of the flock in the nearby fruit trees.

Nina has written about birds stunned by window strikes on her blog, but it seems that most of them have recovered fairly quickly and are able to fly away. It is illegal to capture migrating birds* and I don't know of any bird rehabilitation centres that treat birds other than raptors. I have asked for advice on how to deal with injured birds our local birding forum.

Migrating birds face many hazards as they travel. Watching a hawk capture a small bird does not bother me as much as seeing a bird hurt by a man made structure. I know thousands of birds die each year in window strikes especially in our big cities.

The dead bird is in a box in the yard and I will have to dispose of it in a dignified way. I hope its mate will survive and find another partner in the flock.

* Subject to subsection 5(9), no person shall (a) disturb, destroy or take a nest, egg, nest shelter, eider duck shelter or duck box of a migratory bird, or (b) have in his possession a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird except under authority of a permit therefor. (Migratory Birds Convention Act 1994 (Canada))


  1. What a sad, sad thing.

    Your photographs are beautiful.

  2. It's always sad to see this happen, but happen it does. Hope the bird recovers. :c(

  3. Poor sweet thing! I'm glad you were there and willing to help out if needed.

    I love the closeup pictures - nice to see such pretty details, tho under sad circumstances.

  4. I always hate to see another bird "down" - the quail around our yard seem to hit windows often - even with the blinds down but open. The hit with such force, we have never had a "recovery".

  5. Anonymous3:38 pm GMT-4

    Ruth, it is sad, but sometimes can't be helped. If it happens again, you can put the injured/stunned bird in a shoebox or even a small paper lunch bag and leave it quiet for about an hour. Sometimes just being in the dark and quiet will help them recover from the shock. You can take the box outside and lift the lid - if the bird has recovered, it will fly. If not, time to call a rehabber. You did the best you could under the circumstances.

  6. I am always saddened when our buildings, with reflective glass, fool birds into flying dead ahead.
    You did what you could.

  7. Anonymous8:41 pm GMT-4

    I saw these photos on flickr! Poor little thing that didn't make it and sometimes you never expect to have such up close experiences! Only wish birdies didn't get the butt end of the reflection!

  8. That is a shame.-They are beautiful birds and very social amongst each other.

  9. Oh, Ruth. I adore the Cedar Waxwings, too. You did the right thing. Now I'm hoping for the one left behind. So sad.

  10. What a beautiful bird.

    My friends laugh when they see the tinsel and silk flower vines I've strung from my windows.

    Window strikes break my heart. That was so good of you to try to help.

  11. Ginger- Thanks. They are such elegant looking birds, even in death.

    Jayne- I think the living bird will be fine physically. It seemed to be grieving more than hurt.

    Laura- Several people walked by and most were very indifferent to the incident. Neither of these birds had the red wingtips, so they must have been first year, but the colours are still lovely, especially close up.

    Jean- Quail would make a hefty bump! They mustn't fly too high.

    Laura- Thanks for the helpful information. Hopefully I won't need it, but you never know.

    KGMom- So many buildings! I like the big windows we have at the hospital, but until this happened, I never thought of the impact they may have on the birds.

    Monarch- It was the closest I will be to a Cedar Waxwing I am sure. I was trying to remember how you hold birds when you band them. I didn't know how to pick up a bird safely.

    Larry- They are so social. I found it interesting that the flock stayed nearby as well, and then left completely after the surviving bird rejoined them.

    Mary- Your picture of the tree full of Waxwings is one of my favourite of all you have taken.

    Cathy- I wonder what the hospital windows would look like decked out in decorative vines! :-)

  12. Oh, so sad! I don't have many bird & window strikes, but a couple years ago, I found a dead Cedar Waxwing on the back patio too. I was amazed to see its beautiful feathers up close, but saddened that the only reason I could was because it had died.


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