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Bird Strikes & How to Avoid Them


By Martin Hagne

Martin Hagne

It’s estimated that over 1 billion birds die each year in the United States alone from striking man-made objects.  Bird strikes can be the result of collisions with windows on buildings, cell towers, guy wires on such towers, power lines, vehicles, wind turbines, light houses, and similar items.  But window strikes are by far the most deadly for birds.  

Window strikes often happen at night when migratory birds are attracted to the lit up windows.  These lights are like giant visual magnets to the birds. The same goes for tall towers that have flashing white lights on top of them.  The flashing strobes attract migrating birds that then fly in circles around them often striking the tower or guy wires holding the towers up. This is even a larger issue during stormy nights. Red lights seem to have less of a draw to birds, and are now being used more.  I have seen dozens of dead birds under a cell tower after a foggy or stormy night. It’s such a sad sight!  

There are several initiatives in North America trying to teach us to turn off windows in offices, condos, businesses and similar large buildings at night, especially during migration. Turning the lights off in these buildings do not completely stop birds from hitting them but it does make a huge difference in the bird strike rates. There have been successful programs in at least 34 major cities in the US, with Houston leading the way in Texas. As an example, the Houston Audubon sends out action alerts on nights with predicted heavy migration flights asking folks to turn off the lights.      

Daylight strikes are also a big problem for these large and often tall buildings.  There are now bird friendly windows available, designed to tilt slightly which takes away that look of a flight path to a bird.  A few architects and builders of larger buildings are catching on, but not enough as of yet.      

Even home windows are a big issue since windows look much like an opening for birds to fly through, but instead they hit head on, often resulting in death.  These types of collisions are happening mostly during the day, but homes also experience the lit window phenomena.  

There are numerous ways to mark your windows to break up that flight path.  Bird Tape sold by the American Bird Conservancy and other organizations is one of the most successful. It is semitransparent tape that you install at intervals on the windows so the birds can see them.  We installed Bird Tape a while back on all the windows here at our Gulf Coast Bird Observatory headquarters, and we have not had any window strikes since, so they truly do work.    

Birds have a very tough life as it is dealing with natural threats… add in all the man-made threats and their chances are much diminished.  But this is something we can do some things about.  We should all strive to spread the word and cause a change.  Over 1 billion dead birds every year are just way too many! 

Photo by Celeste Silling. Caption: Bird Tape is easy to install on your home windows and highly effective for decreasing bird strikes.

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