Reflections gone wrong

By Stephanie Weizenbach

We’ve all walked into a glass door one time or another, and surely have burst out laughing as a loved one bounces off the screen door. Of course, glass hurts, whereas the screen tends to just hurt our egos. But the question is: why do we walk straight into a barrier?

We look right through it. Wild birds do the same, seeing through windows they crash straight into the glass. They also crash when they see reflection in the window, replicating the surrounding sky and habitat. Estimates of migratory birds killed annually in North America from colliding with buildings, varies between 100 million to one billion birds.

Most of us have stories of birds hitting the window. One of mine happened moments after cleaning the windows of a building, inside and out. Suddenly, I heard a loud THUNK! I ran out to see what happened and found a robin laying under the window, breathing heavily. I grabbed a shoe box, and carefully scooped up the robin and put it in a quiet room. I then drew the blinds to prevent other birds from potentially injuring themselves. After an hour of rest, I took the box back outside and the robin exploded out of the box, flying high into a tree. A happy ending for this little bird.

I heard a more alarming story from an Edmonton and Area Land Trust volunteer, Jamie, and his wife Christina. Christina was home alone when she glimpsed out the living room window to see – much to her horror – a bull moose staring at the window, pawing the ground. This was during rutting season, so this giant bull moose saw its own reflection in the window as a challenging rival – and it was about to charge the window!  Christina drew the blinds as quickly as she could, her heart leaping out of her chest. Much to her relief, the blinds broke up the reflection enough for the moose to snap out of it, and prevent it from busting through the window. After tearing up the yard and putting a dent in the fence, the moose thankfully left.

Have you ever had a bird hit your window, or a territorial male (even robins do this) challenge themselves in the reflection? To prevent this from happening you need to break up the reflection. Reflections can move due to the angle of the sun, so you’ll need to assess this throughout the day. You also need to make the glass barrier obvious so birds don’t crash trying to land on your luscious indoor plants.

There are many ways to make your windows visible. My grandmother used to hang ribbon on the outside of her windows, which worked really well. Opening blind slats only half way, instead of drawing the blinds completely, can help. You can also buy subtle decals that reflect ultraviolet light, which is visible to birds but not humans – but this might not work as well for those pesky moose. And also, placing your feeders and bird baths less than one metre or more than 10 metre from the window reduces bird crashes, which can happen when the birds are spooked by a predator swooping in.

To learn more about creating wildlife friendly habitat in your own yard, visit the Edmonton and Area Land Trust’s website at ealt.ca/hazardous-habitats. Also, check out http://www.flap.org for more info on birds hitting windows.