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Birds and window strikes – we all lose


It probably happened to you at some time. You are at home, and you hear something that sounds like a soft thud in the background. You get up and investigate. Where did the sound come from? It sounded like it came from outside, but you look outside and see nothing. You step out your door and look around at eye level. Still nothing. Then as you come around the house you look down and that is where you see it – a bird. It may just be stunned in which case you can ensure it is protected from predators by placing it a box or paper bag and leaving it quietly to recover which may take minutes or hours. More likely than not, however, it will be dead, and what is most heartbreaking is that it was an avoidable death. We are well into spring migration so the likelihood of this occurring is much greater. A 2014 study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Institution estimated that between 365 million to one billion birds are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S. Now with more development, these numbers are sure to be higher. It is not just high rises and large commercial buildings that are responsible for these deaths. Every homeowner can think of at least one time when seeing evidence of a collision at home. Multiply that one death by millions of homes. We are all responsible, and we all can do something to minimize these senseless deaths. Why does this happen? During daylight hours, shiny glass exteriors confuse birds who are unable to distinguish reflection from an open flyway. It may have even happened to you as you walk back from the pool and did not recognize that the sliding glass doors into your home are closed because of reflection. Birds (and sometimes people) need clues on or around glass to warn them that it is there and they are not moving into an open area. With all the threats that currently impact birds, from cat predation to disorientation due to light pollution, window collisions is something that we, as homeowners can impact in significant way. What can you do, as an individual homeowner? First, there is a lot of great information on the National and Local Bucks County Audubon Society websites. A general internet search will also get you lots of good information. There are a lot of simple solutions including: creating patterns on reflective glass surfaces (Note that quantity and spacing matter: multiple markings 2 to 4 inches apart are recommended); install external screens on windows; Close blinds or curtains; move interior plants away from right next to windows; place bird feeders directly on windows. You can also place physical barriers like screens, netting, hanging cords, or scrims in front of the glass. If the physical barriers do not contain open spaces that are larger than 2x2 inches, or the hanging cords are spaced no wider than 4 inches apart, they can effectively discourage most birds from trying to fly through them into the glass. One sticker on a large window will not work. You can also show your support for birds by urging your federal representatives to support the Bird-Safe Buildings Act (H.R. 1986/S.971), reintroduced by Rep. Mike Quigley and Sen. Cory Booker, to ensure that birds are protected from collisions with federal buildings. Birds are not a nice-to-have, they are a must-have for a healthy environment. Besides, who can a imagine a beautiful spring day without the sounds of their singing? It would be a very quiet, very sad world. Barbara Beck lives in Doylestown. She is a member of the board of Bucks County Audubon Society.

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