House windows kill millions of birds

The thud of a bird crashing into a window is an all-too-familiar sound for many Canadians. Birds often mistake windows for openings, flying into the glass at full speed. A startling new study suggests about 22 million Canadian birds die each year from such crashes.

Students at the University of Alberta surveyed 1,750 locals. Each person gave the number of fatal bird strikes at their homes during the previous year. By applying these numbers to every house in Canada (called extrapolating), the researchers figured out the common numbers of deaths for different types of homes. Then, the team estimated the national bird death rate.

Rural houses with bird feeders and lots of vegetation generally had more bird deaths—as many as 43 in a year. Common birds, like sparrows, robins and chickadees, accounted for most casualties. Luckily, the study found no endangered birds killed by windows.

But this isn’t just a problem in Canada. In the United States an estimated 100 million to 1 billion birds die each year by crashing into windows.

For people looking to stop bird deaths, the easiest step is to move bird feeders and birdbaths away from windows. Placing stickers or plastic wrap on the outside of the window can also prevent a bird from making a crash landing.

The imprint of a pigeon on a window. Common birds made up the bulk of window fatalities in a recent Canadian study. Photo by: Gary Huston.
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