When Your Windows Are A Pane

By Heidi Ananthakrishnan

Have you ever accidentally bumped into a glass door? You’re not the only one.

Bird collisions with glass kill up to a billion birds a year in the United States. After such an impact, birds usually die or face life-threatening injuries. These collisions mainly affect songbirds during their spring and fall migrations, when they are exhausted and hungry. We often do not see dead birds near windows because scavengers quickly consume them. According to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the only thing more lethal than window collisions are habitat loss and domestic cats. While we may imagine glass-covered skyscrapers to be the worst death traps for birds, half of all collisions occur on homes and buildings up to three stories in height. The other half mostly occur on buildings up to 11 stories. The reason birds collide closer to the ground is because they feed there. Glass that reflects vegetation is the most dangerous, as birds think they are flying toward trees or bushes. This often happens at windows located across from bird feeders, baths, or fruiting trees.

Thankfully, this is one conservation issue we can easily do something about. ABC identifies cost-effective retrofits to glass that do not impede the view from inside. One of the easiest fixes is the most common: window screens. Others run the gamut from decorative decals to frosted tape to stencil-rolled paint to stained glass. Even having your first-grader make pat- terns with a window crayon on the outside of the glass could save lives. The company Acopian Birdsavers sells cords that hang outside windows and sway in the breeze, adding an element of calming movement to an outdoor view.

Lyon Park sits in the path of the Atlantic Flyway, a major migratory bird route connecting Canadian Arctic breeding grounds with South America. The Audubon Society estimates 500 species of birds ply this aerial freeway. Birds have lost much habitat along this route due to development and deforestation, which has decimated their populations. North America has lost 29% of its birds since 1970. That is more than one in every four birds. With such battered populations, every bird we save is a feather in our cap.