There are plenty of home surprises that come with living in a rural setting. But there’s one I found out about with an unexpected bang: If you have spotless windows—as my house did when I first moved in—more than a few birds will fly directly into the glass with surprising force.
I quickly learned of a few ways to try to prevent bird-on-window impact. My avian-loving neighbors put up prayer flags across their windows. The local veterinary office used cute little decals on every pane. And some people even intentionally get their windows dirty. But unfortunately, none of these seemed like a great option.
But after the most recent collision (which involved an adorable Tweety-like bird), I knew I had to do something—quick. So, after hearing from several biologists and bird experts, I’ve compiled this short but sweet list of six things you can do to make your windows more feather-friendly—no prayer flags or mud-smearing necessary.
What happens to birds when they fly into windows?
Before diving into ways to prevent bird strikes on your home, it’s essential to understand why preventing them matters. And the answer isn’t to protect your windows—since it’s improbable your windows suffer any damage (unless a velociraptor crashes into them). Instead, it’s all about saving the birds.
“It’s unknown yet the long-term survival rate for birds, including migratory species, which have survived window collisions,” says veterinary scientist and former wildlife biologist Dr. Jordan Schaul. “Many birds perish on impact or succumb to internal bleeding or other injuries shortly afterward.”
Another thing to keep in mind: Even if the bird appears to be OK at first glance, it’s unlikely it will live for very long after a window crash. Besides potentially falling prey to opportunistic predators (like your neighbor’s cat), birds suffering severe injuries might not be able to continue making seasonal migrations.
So here are some easy things you can do to make your windows more feather-friendly.
1. Install nets or solar shades
The main thing to keep in mind when setting up bird deterrents is that you’re not so much trying to keep birds away from windows as you are trying to alert them of the window’s presence.
“Birds fly into windows during the daytime because of reflections that deceptively present the appearance of natural spaces,” says Schaul. “At night, nocturnal species are drawn off course by lights emanating from windows.”
Nets and solar shades can work well to prevent collisions as they provide a barrier that disrupts the illusion of a clear window. And while they might not be the most discreet solution, a good bird net or set of solar shades will help save any feathered friends from crashing headlong into your windows, no matter the time of day.
2. Make ‘Zen wind curtains’
“Acopian BirdSavers are among the easiest commercial options,” says biologist and bird-safe building specialist Heidi Trudell, of Just Save Birds.
Besides working well, “Zen wind curtains” (aka Acopian BirdSavers) are also straightforward to make and a favorite easy solution among the bird-loving community.
To make your own, cut pieces of paracord (lightweight nylon cord) to fit the height of your windows as in this DIY guide. If crafting isn’t your thing, you can also buy customized Zen wind curtains directly from Acopian BirdSavers.
3. Make use of properly spaced decals
Window decals always seem to be the first solution that comes up when searching for bird deterrent products. But there’s a reason they aren’t at the top of this list.
“The problem with stickers, decals, and tape is that you need a lot them,” says Dr. David Aborn, professor of biology, geology, and environmental science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, TN. “Research has shown that stickers and decals need to be 2 to 3 inches apart to be effective.”
So can you use decals to deter birds? Yes. But you’re going to need at least one for every pane. That could translate into an awful lot of decals.
4. Buy window film
If you’re not into colorful window decals but want an affordable way to make your windows more bird-safe, you’re in luck. Various window films offer a low-key way to alert birds to the presence of a window while also providing some impressive energy-saving benefits.
“CollidEscape is a transparent film applied to the outside of the window and obscures reflections,” says Schaul. “It’s also ecologically sustainable in reducing home cooling costs.”
In addition, installing an energy-saving window film like CollidEscape might qualify you for a $500 federal tax credit.
5. Keep your screens up year-round
Another easy way to keep birds from flying into your windows is simply by keeping your screens on throughout every season.
Some people take their screens down during the winter months (mainly to allow more natural light). But screens are an effective way of alerting birds to a window and disrupting the deadly reflections that your windows might be giving off.
6. Replace window coverings immediately
Saving the birds doesn’t equal letting your windows remain grimy.
But it does mean you should get in the habit of replacing whatever deterrent method you choose immediately after washing them—since this is when your windows are likely to be the most dangerous for your neighborhood birds.
“Unfortunately, there will be collisions as long as there is reflection,” says Aborn. “The nice thing about some of the available products is that they can be taken down and then quickly put back up after cleaning.”