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Bird-Window Conflicts

Welcome back to Ask a Naturalist: your own personal “Google” for information on all things natural on PEI!

Today’s question comes from Bernadette Schmeisser who had a bird continually hitting her front bay window, despite having anti-reflective material on the glass and placing drawings inside. She wondered: what else could be done to deter the bird?

A key to stopping this unwanted behaviour is understanding why it happens. This is very common in spring when birds are setting up territories and finding mates. If a bird sees its own reflection in a window, it will often mistake this for a rival and fly at it to drive it off. Unfortunately for both bird and homeowner, crashing into the window isn’t enough to convince the bird that’s a bad idea and the behaviour continues – sometimes for weeks. (I once had a determined Ruffed Grouse do this and am not ashamed to say the first time it hit my picture window scared the heck out of me!).

In human-wildlife conflicts like this, I like to take a stepwise approach starting with the least invasive method and increasing intensity as needed. Here, the first step is to place objects inside the window – as Bernadette did – and this does sometimes work. But more often the window mirrors the outdoors so well that the bird can’t see the objects inside. In these cases, the next step is to put something *outside* the window. You can buy all sorts of commercial products, but home-made solutions such as ribbons, string, or rope hung vertically work just as well. Bernadette had success with ribbons and sent me this photo. (In this case, the bird had focussed its defensive efforts on the bottom part of the window; had the entire window invoked its wrath the ribbons would have been placed full length).

In more extreme cases, this sort of deterrent won’t work. If it hadn’t, the next step would have been to coat the outside of the window with soap. For the most stubborn birds, sometimes the only solution is to do all this and then place an actual mirror nearby so it can “defend” its territory without harming itself or driving the homeowner around the bend.

If you have a question about PEI’s wild side, it’s likely others do too! So, follow me here or on Facebook, join the conversation, and Ask a Naturalist about PEI untamed!

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May 03, 2023

Great ideas !

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