Providing a Safer Yard for Birds
Hanging birdfeeders, providing birdbaths, and growing native plants are among the best ways to provide food, water, and shelter to birds as they migrate across an increasingly developed continent. If homeowners want to attract and provide refuge for birds, they must also safeguard their yards against threats such as windows, toxins, and cats.
Let’s talk primarily about window collisions and ways to prevent them. Window strikes at people’s homes kill at least 150 million birds each year in the U.S. Reflections of vegetation or landscape attract birds to collide with glass. Birds tend to collide with windows in rural yards with trees and birdfeeders—the very picture of bird-friendly habitat. Many people hang birdfeeders in a tree close to their house so they can easily watch the birds from a window. This is the worst place to put them. It draws birds close to windows while also giving them space to gain the necessary flying speed to hurt themselves. Place feeders and birdbaths within three feet of the nearest window so that birds don’t hurt themselves upon liftoff; or place them more than 30 feet away so that feeding birds have plenty of space to clear the house.
- Window screens are a great deterrent. If your windows don’t have screens, there are some netting options you can purchase to install over the top of your windows to keep birds from injuring themselves.
- Install Acopian BirdSavers or make your own with 1/8-inch diameter parachute cord. Hanging strings, ribbons, or cords in front of your window is an inexpensive way to help birds avoid your windows. Bird collisions tend to cluster around certain times of year particularly during migration and when chicks are fledging. Once you identify those months with heavy bird traffic in your yard, you can hang and remove them accordingly.
- Hanging vertical exterior translucent tape stripes across the window at 4 inches (10 cm) intervals can be a good deterrent.
- Use lots of decals. Many forest birds readily dart between branches and leaves, so a single decal will not deter them. The barrier needs to be dense, as if it were impenetrable foliage. UV-reflecting decals are recommended.
- Apply horizontal-pattern bird safety film to the outside of your window.
If you hang feeders or otherwise invite birds into your yard, you need to make sure you’ve considered all threats. Lights directed upward can disorient birds when they migrate at night, so make sure any exterior lights are covered. Don’t use pesticides or other toxins on your property that could injure or kill birds. And while windows are a big problem, they come in second to cats as the biggest killers of migrating birds. Keeping pet cats indoors is a positive for cats and native bird populations.
To read more about the current citizen science research about window collision risk at houses and to find out more about the products mentioned in this article, please go to http://www.audubon.org/news/think-you-have-bird-friendly-backyard-think-again or https://abcbirds.org/get-involved/bird-smart-glass/.