For the Birds

Denice Wilkins

Hairy Woodpecker.
[This article appeared in the February/March 2016 issue of The SCOOP.]

Over the course of just one month this fall, we heard the heartbreaking thud of six birds hitting our windows. Fortunately, all these birds were well enough to fly away. Unfortunately, that’s not a guarantee they didn’t die of their injuries later. 

Then there are the birds that hit our windows when we aren’t within earshot, drop dead below, and get carried away by scavengers. We never see them, so we might be lulled into thinking that our windows don’t kill. Well, I know mine do. I have found the lifeless bodies of woodpeckers, chickadees, and others lying below my windows. Remorse and guilt don’t help. This winter, I decided it was time I did something.

Across North America, it is estimated that from 100 million to 1 billion birds are killed annually in collisions with windows. According to the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada, years of research and data have shown that collectively, residential homes kill or injure more songbirds than all other buildings combined. Maybe my windows only kill or injure a few birds a year, but multiply that by every one of us and the number is staggering. I care about birds. If I’m not motivated to do something, who will?

So, what to do? FLAP describes a number of ways to make your windows safe for birds - from DIY projects to manufactured products. The objective is to break up the reflection in the window so birds aren’t deceived into thinking they can fly right through. Unfortunately, those hawk silhouettes that some of us have tried are not remotely effective. After looking at the options, I decided to go with a simple, inexpensive, homemade window treatment - Acopian BirdSavers.

The people that designed Acopian BirdSavers aren’t out to make a ton of money. They’re a family of engineers and naturalists who just want to save birds. On their website (www.birdsavers.com) you can choose to “Order BirdSavers” or “Make Your Own”, where they provide a quick guide to DIY. The idea is that if you hang cords at regular intervals along the width of your window and down to the bottom of the glass, you will achieve a 90-100% reduction in bird window collisions. A study published by the Wilson Ornithological Society tested the idea and proved just that. 

After reading the short summary on how to make what Acopian calls “zen wind curtains,” I decided to make my own. They have been hanging for several weeks now and nary a bird has hit our windows. When looking out, I focus on the view beyond the cords and feel good knowing that some beautiful bird that has just managed to survive a harsh winter, or who has just arrived after migrating thousands of miles, will not meet its death at my windows. Plus, I have this great conversation piece when friends stop by!

How do you know if your windows are a danger for bird strikes? Look at them from the outside. If they look like mirrors reflecting the sky or surrounding vegetation, or if you can see your houseplants inside, they have the potential to be deadly. 

While making my bird saver window treatments, I wrote detailed plans complete with photos to make it easier for others to make their own. I would be happy to e-mail the plans to you, for free, of course. Please contact me at denicejohn@live.ca. Nearly every species of songbird is declining in numbers. You can make a difference!

Looking out my window's new "zen wind curtains"  from inside.

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