Tuesday, October 19, 2010

America's #1 Bird Killer Nearly Strikes on My Patio

No, not my cat -- my windows.

I was working at my computer last weekend when I heard a barely-audible thump on the glass, so quiet that the noise itself didn't prompt me to get up to investigate. It was my cat's interest that got me to come look at the tiny bird that had bounced off my patio door.

Brown Creeper -- Vicki's Backyard, Woodstock, GeorgiaThe bird was sitting up with its wings splayed, blinking fast & looking dazed. I checked my National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds & identified it as a brown creeper, a common bird usually seen hopping up & down trees snacking on bugs.

Since it seemed more stunned than seriously injured, I closed the shades so my cat wouldn't stress it out & gave it some time to recover. (In general, it's best to only touch wildlife as a last resort -- an untrained person handling birds & animals can make the situation even worse.) Sure enough, a few minutes later when I went to lock my patio door, it heard the rattle & immediately flew off.

Windows are the single biggest killer of birds in America. Birds simply don't see them. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to matter if you put a sticker or two on the window -- unless it has a covering at least every two inches, it won't be 100% effective. Hence, solutions for bird-proofing windows aren't very attractive.

What can you do? The Fish & Wildlife Service has a good tip sheet (PDF):
  • Use window feeders or place bird baths & feeders either very close to a window (less than 3 feet) or far away (more than 30 feet)
  • Close your blinds & turn off unused lights at night
  • Support programs like Audobon's Lights Out designed to reduce bird impacts
Ironically, just a few days ago I'd been walking through my parking lot thinking, "There are tons of house sparrows here, but with huge tulip poplars all around me, why am I not seeing more interesting birds?" Little did I know a new-to-me species was about to try to fly into my living room.

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