When Blair, the red-tailed hawk, was brought into our office after having accidentally flown into the side of the district attorney’s building in Brooklyn, he was in rough shape. He was scared, disoriented, and wasn’t able to move his right leg much due to weak paralysis. His eyes had trouble tracking, and he was spitting up blood.
As the avian vet specialists for the Wild Bird Fund, we’ve seen these types of cases many times before. In fact, as many as 988 million birds die each year from window collisions. These animals are typically in shock and have sustained serious injuries. Blair was no exception.
We immediately preformed a CAT scan to determine how serious the injuries were. We sedated him prior to these tests, but he was already pretty out of it. The tests showed a contusion to his lungs, as well as a head concussion. Once recovered, from his procedure, we hand-fed him mice to ensure that he was getting the proper nutrients needed to recover his strength, and covered his cage once he was more alert so he wouldn’t get stressed out.
Due to Blair getting the treatment he needed quickly, he was able to make a fast recovery and eventually be released back into the wild. However, many birds are not as fortunate.
Why birds fly into windows
Birds crash into windows due to the glass reflecting the sky or trees. They don’t understand it’s a solid surface. They can get confused from seeing feeders reflected in the glass, mistaking it for a food source, or from seeing other birds in the glass, which can make the glass seem like a safe area to explore. To complicate matters further, birds can become agitated and confused from being pursued by a predator, and become even more likely to crash in a window’s surface.
Protecting birds from flying into windows
To help safeguard birds from flying into your windows, and mistaking them for air or foliage, the following techniques can be used:
Install mosquito screens that cover the entire surface of your window
Paint a grid or patterns on your window with soap or tempera paint
Get vertical blinds and leave the slats open halfway
These steps don’t take long to implement, and can help save birds from serious injuries or even death.
If you find a bird that’s injured from flying into a window
If you find a bird that’s been injured from a collision injury, check it for external damage. The bird may be temporarily stunned from the accident, and will remain still and quiet until it recovers. If it has a noticeable injury, appears unconscious, or is in clear distress, call a wildlife rescue asap. If a bird has sustained internal damage or broken bones, getting immediate care is crucial for recovery. NEVER try to medically rehabilitate the bird on your own: it requires the expertise of an experienced avian vet.
To transport the bird, use gloves and place it in an appropriately sized box (with holes to breathe) that is wide enough for the bird to fully extend its wings. Never give the bird food or water, as birds have specific dietary needs and require monitoring from a professional.
Birds try their best to survive in our urban environments, but window accidents are unfortunately a common occurrence. Marking the windows so birds don’t get confused, and making sure to notify a wildlife rescue quickly after you discover an injured bird, can help save their lives.
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