Turquoise Tragedy

September 2009

What has happened to this bird?

I found this bird after it flew into a window in my home. Why do birds do this and can I do anything to stop it?

Answer

This Musk Lorikeet (Glossopsitta concinna) died after hitting a window in Yangan. Musk Lorikeets form large flocks, which forage in the outer canopy of flowering and fruiting eucalypt trees. When alarmed, Lorikeets swoop down from trees and fly off fast and direct. This is when they are in danger of striking windows.

Birds may not see glass as a barrier in their flight path. Large windows can appear as either a mirror image of surrounding habitat or a continuing corridor to the environment on the other side. It has been shown that birds will hit windows regardless of the size, height from the ground or orientation of the window. Window strikes occur in any environment where birds and glass occur together.

Head trauma is the most common cause of death. Survivors that do not immediately fly away are likely to be concussed. These birds will often remain fairly motionless, breathing heavily, and after a while either succumb to their injuries or recover.

If you find a bird in this condition you can place it in a protected warm enclosure, with some food and water. Try not to touch or check on the bird too often. If the bird is still stunned after several hours, it may have more serious injuries and you should contact your local vet or wildlife care group.

So what can I do?

Does this mean that all windows are a threat to birds? Theoretically yes, but large un-interrupted expanses of glass are the most dangerous.

Luckily there are techniques to make glass "visible" to birds. The main way to do this is to create "visual noise". This is a visible differentiation of material, texture, colour or opacity that helps to fragment window reflections and reduce overall transparency. The key is to interrupt large areas of clear glass.

Visual noise can be created using vertical blinds or shades with wide slats, hanging heavily patterned, bright curtains close to your windows, or adding ornaments (e.g. decals, silhouettes) or artwork to your glass exterior.

Moving feeders and bird baths to viewable locations but away from windows may also help. Overseas studies have shown that suburban environments where birds have access to resources such as feeders, bird baths and fruiting or flowering trees encourage higher densities near homes, leading to more collisions.

Insect screens Insect screens are a great way to cut down reflectivity, without altering your windows. Silhouettes or decals on a window Silhouettes or decals reduce the probability of collision by interrupting the expanse of glass.

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