Windows Pose a Threat to Migratory Birds

Western Tanagers

Western Tanagers are medium-sized songbirds native to the Western coasts of North and Central America. These birds are characterized by short, thick bills and medium length tails. Adult males have distinct, yellow plumage with black upper wings and an orangey-red head. Adult females have a yellow head and are olive-colored on the back, with dark wings and tail.

Western Tanagers breed in coniferous forests, ranging from Juniper/Pine mixtures at low elevation to Spruce/Fir near the treeline. When the Western Tanager is migrating, you will spot them in shrubby, wooded habitats or on the edge of the forest where they often stay hidden in the canopy. You can identify the Western Tanager’s vocals by listening for a husky, rising-and-following song of two, three or four-note phrases.

Whilst these birds mainly live off insects, their diet also includes small fruit in the fall and winter seasons. If you happen to live in a wooded area within this bird’s range, you can provide moving water or a small pond to attract them to your yard!

Wildlife Rescue Helps

An injured Western Tanager arrived at Wildlife Rescue hospital in early October, after accidentally flying into a window. Window strikes are unfortunately an all-too-common occurrence these days, particularly during the migration months.

During the initial assessment, medical staff noticed significant bruising to the bird’s right-wing that prevented it from taking flight, as well as general swelling around its body. Wildlife Rescue hospital staff administered body wraps and pain management medication until the swelling decreased and the Tanager was able to make small movements.

The Western Tanager stayed in care for several weeks, before it was eventually released back into the wild close to where it was originally rescued from. Prior to its release, staff ensured the bird had strong movement, flight, and was able to self-feed in order to give it the best chance of survival.

Window Strikes:

Windows pose a huge threat to birds, especially those which are flying on their migratory routes. By reflecting foliage or sky, the windows look inviting to birds on their route. However, this deceptive illusion will often lead to the bird crashing into the window which can result in serious injuries and sometimes death.

During the day time, birds can see either a reflection of vegetation on the clear glass or will see right through the window to potted plants or vegetation which might be sitting on the other side. During the night time, the nocturnal migrants can crash into windows because the light diverts them from their original path. This is particularly dangerous during foggy weather or if a structure has low ceilings which can cause birds to fly directly into the lighted windows.

In addition, some birds will suffer injuries during mating season when they believe they are defending their territories. The birds perceive their reflection in the glass as a competing male and attack it with force in an attempt to push the intruder off.

Tips to Help Reduce Window Strikes

  • Decals, stickers, and sun-catchers can help to break up window reflections. We suggest using decals that are at least 6-inches in diameter. These will alert the birds that they are not in a safe flying zone. Place these decals and stickers in both horizontal and vertical directions for optimal coverage.
  • Tempera Paint or Soap: By applying a layer of soap on the outside of your windows, you create a film that will be visible to birds. You can also use tempera paint and create bold and bright patterns to add some design to your windows.
  • Netting or Screens: Stretch some mesh netting or a protective screen across the front of your windows to help prevent birds from inadvertently striking into them. Look for netting that is durable, lightweight polypropylene.
  • Close Blinds and Shutters: Be mindful of closing your blind and shutters at night before you go out and before bed. Birds travel at night and lights and windows can trigger their route.
  • Turn Off Lights: Switch your lights off when leaving your home. Not only are you helping to save the environment, you will also help to prevent nocturnal birds from getting confused and striking the glass.

Helping an injured bird

If you come across an injured bird, act quickly. Assess the bird and place it in a dark box or under a colander to avoid cat or other predator attacks. Handle the bird as little as possible and give our Support Centre a call at 604-526-7275 for further instruction. You can also DONATE today to help provide care for injured and orphaned wildlife.












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