Windows of Opportunity

  When Birds Make an Impact, REWHC Volunteers Make Theirs

It was a beautiful, sunny morning, the woodlands behind the Nimitz building were glowing in the warm morning sun, so what was a Wood Thrush doing in our courtyard, an apparent victim of concussion?

Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)
Thoreau: "Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of heaven are not shut against him."

A Testimonial and Call to Action

Beth Ripa, 26 May 2004:
"A fellow employee came to me about 10:30 this morning, clearly upset. She said there was an injured bird in one of the courtyards and did not know what to do. I went to take a look and saw a beautiful wood thrush clearly in distress on the concrete walk, an obvious victim of a window strike. While my first inclination was to not move the bird, it was in a busy walkway and risked further injury and stress if it stayed where it was. If it had any chance of surviving it needed to be moved to a safer place. I decided it would be better to relocate the thrush to an area near the western woodlands where quiet and space might assist the bird in its recovery. I also thought that the bird would have a better chance of surviving if it could get to where it wanted to go without having to "leap tall buildings in a single bound". I gently picked it up and shielded its eyes with a cupped hand in hopes to relieve some of its stress as I moved it out of the area. I placed this beautiful bird in the little grove containing the tulip poplar tree at the top of the Tower Trail. This little "quiet zone", created by Harry Mutter, seemed the perfect spot to serve as a avian hospital room. With a measure of mixed emotions -- feeling terrible that the bird was suffering so, while also feeling great privilege in being so close to such a beautiful, delicate, wild creature -- I left the thrush on a soft bed of new undergrowth in hopes that it would be gone when I checked again at lunchtime. At 12:15 the bird was in the same place, resting, with its eyes open and bright. As I attempted to move some of the soiled vegetation from around where it rested, the bird let out a loud "chip!" and took a short, low flight across the Tower Trail into the undergrowth at the edge of the woods. A quick check on my return loop found no bird in evidence. I left choosing to believe that this bird with the wonderful song survived its trauma and will continue to delight us with its beautiful voice. The lesson for all is the grave danger birds encounter with window reflections. I was told by frequent visitors of the courtyards that this was the fourth victim of a window strike in approximately two weeks. The other three birds, finches or sparrows, all died. I have asked some members of the team for suggestions as to how we can best protect our feathered friends from these types of particular risks. "

REWHC Team Springs Into Action

"There are two types of window collisions involving birds. Birds that continually fight the glass are fighting their own reflection, believing that the bird they see in the glass is a competitor bird. These birds do not get hurt. The second type of collision is when birds fly into windows because they see a reflection of the outdoors in the window. They often hurt themselves, and sometime die. The way you can reduce or prevent either of these kinds of collisions is by removing the reflection. Some strategies that work include soaping the outside of the window, hanging objects on the outside to distract the birds from hitting the glass, or aiming the glass up or down to keep the birds from seeing the reflections. Some people have prevented collisions by placing silhouettes of hawks and owls in the windows, which keep the birds at a distance."

Brenda Bibb, 26 May 2004:
"The birds Beth mentions fall into the "don't see the glass because of reflection" collision (in my opinion) and some of the suggestions are not very feasible for our courtyards (tilting windows, soaping windows, etc.). We could certainly try the decals. I personally am not sure how effective they will be. The Norman Bird Sanctuary has only three decals in stock but has placed an order for more for me. I am planning to pick these three up Thursday. It certainly can't hurt. I plan to install the first three on windows along the south side of the courtyard between Nimitz and Nimitz South. I will request assistance for additional installation when the remainder arrive."

Placard placed outside offices hosting window decals

A View of the Sky,
Windows Confuse Birds
© 2004, W. Saslow

Reflections, in the windows, provide a more attractive view of the sky than the real thing.
© 2004, W. Saslow

A decal, placed on the outside of the window, attempts to leverage the birds' natural fear of hawks in preventing window strikes.
© 2004, W. Saslow.

A decal may be all that stands between a bird and oblivion.
© 2004, W. Saslow.

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