Over the years we’ve shared videos and Facebook stories of our bird rescues. But far better to prevent the birds from crashing into our windows in the first place, so we delved into bird deflectors. First, here are some of our favorite bird rescues.
This rescued cardinal below happened before we installed our bird deflectors. We treasure being able to save those we could, but this beautiful male cardinal was one of our favorites.
This cardinal seemed in no hurry to leave, and yet it didn’t appear to be due to shock. Rather, he just seemed curious and attentive and rather enjoying the strokes he was getting.
This cardinal wasn’t our first rescue. We’ve performed numerous salvages and rescues, and most were revived and set free within minutes.
Two of our bird rescues were taken for rehabilitation at a local vet that helps injured wildlife for free. One had a broken wing that took the vet a lot of time to restore and then about 6 weeks of care before they released it back to nature.
So while we’ve saved most… probably about 85%, we’ve also had a number of not-so-happy endings through the years. Those instant deaths were the most merciful. Those that suffered for awhile first, were the most distressing, but all of them saddened us, so we needed to find a solution.
The problem with reflective windows in the woods is that to the birds, it just looks like an opening to fly through amidst the trees and limbs.
Cardinal Cisco – Bird Rescue
This beautiful cardinal is one of many that we’ve rescued over the years, and that inspired us to find better bird deflector solutions. Cisco is the one that had the broken wing that the local vet who does wildlife rescue healed over many weeks… all for free.
You can read more about Cisco in this article on one of our smaller sister websites. We bought it from the original owners who were moving on.
That website is currently a bit neglected because we haven’t had time to focus on it. However, we have great plans for it in the future as a part of our family business to create informative sites that spread more good and positivity in the world! ❤️🙏🏻☀
Although the photos of bird in hand in that article are NOT Cisco. Instead, we used the cardinal pictured here, because Cisco was very feisty and eager to bite.
Cisco was the first biting bird we rescued. Since it turns out that his wing was broken, it’s likely because he was more alarmed and in pain from his injured wing than stunned or dizzy from a direct hit to the head as with most of them.
Some people say that we shouldn’t pick up the fallen birds. However, we don’t want our cat or dogs (or the neighbor’s pets) to get them. Beyond that, we’ve clearly seen where the warmth and energy from loving hands seems to help soothe, calm and restore them.
Keeping the Cat and Dogs Away
Our cat and dogs have caught on to what the sound of a bird strike portends, perhaps akin to the ding of a dinner bell. 😬 Off they go, running through pet door as we race outside to beat them to the rescue.
Thankfully, we’re always first to the scene of the accident. Using the nearest people door, 😉we beat them to it.
However, thanks to the homemade bird deflectors we’ve installed we rarely hear the sad sound of bird strikes now. But if there is, Mystique, Nikolai’s black rescue cat, ignores it.
Instead, she licks her paws as if she didn’t hear it. The dogs still stumble over themselves to race for the pet door, barking up a ruckus. But not Mystique… she plays it cool and unconcerned as she saunters upstairs in utter disinterest.
Are Window Decals Good Bird Deflectors?
There’s quite an array of solutions to this bird strike problem and after an afternoon of online research, we believe we’ve found one that is simple and will do the trick.
We passed on the window decals because we have so many windows and didn’t want to obstruct the view with those. Plus some studies have shown that the decals—also called window clings—are not all that effective.
Conversely, some in the GardensAll community have found window decals to be sufficient bird deflectors.
Another alternative was to stretch fine meshes of bird netting very tightly about a foot in front of each window. Logistics were an issue there. So we ended up trying the simplest, and relatively least obtrusive method found.https://www.birdsavers.com/buildyourown-jchannel.html
More Attractive Window Bird Deflectors
We have to admit that the string system we used is not the most aesthetically pleasing. It’s on the back side of our house with just the woods beyond, so for now, it fine. The most important thing is that it has stopped the majority of bird casualties.
Eventually, we plan to replace it with prettier options. My favorite is Swarovski crystals bead dangles, but it take a lot of those in all lengths for as much window space as we have, so that can take time and expense.
But if your situation is that you want to go pretty first, and you can afford that investment in long term beauty, then that’s what we’d recommend. The flashing light reflections of strings of beaded Swarovski crystals in varying lengths make for elegantly enchanting decorative deflectors.
You can see examples of those below. You’d have to hang these on the inside of your window to protect from weather and wind.
We’ve had these suncatchers in the past and they make for beautiful rainbow and light reflections inside the home. However, we’re not yet certain if the moving light reflections will be visible enough to the birds on the outside. The windows where we have our few chandelier suncatchers are not the ones the birds crash into.
Chances are these will reflect well enough in sunny windows, so we’ll try those first and next. In fact… going to order some today! We will report back here with updates on that.
The Window String Bird Deflector System
What follows is the homemade string system we’re using. Yes, it’s not pretty, but it’s a cheap quick fix and better than hurt birds!
You can actually buy a kit like what we used, through the Acopian Bird Savers site. Their back story, research, and testing convinced us this was the way to go. Plus they generously provided instructions on how to build one’s own bird deflector system. Which we did!
Of course we made some modifications to use materials we already had on hand. We used one inch PVC electrical conduit instead of the vinyl strips. We also screwed in large brass cup hooks to suspend the pipe and extend it out a little more from the window because we have casement windows that crank outward. The paracord colors we used are dark green and grey.
- 1″ PVC electrical conduit (instead of the vinyl strips)
- Large brass cup screw hooks to suspend the pipe slightly away from the window
- Paracord in dark green and grey
As can be seen in the last photo, the strings are aren’t pretty, but it’s not so bad. The important thing is that these have virtually eliminated the birds crashing into the windows.
We still have a few glass doors and higher windows that were hit over the year. But it’s definitely reduced the sickening sound of a hard hit on the windows followed by the sad sight of a bird lying on the deck floors.
Other Bird Deflectors to Try
Other options for bird deflectors that we’re going to try next include making mobiles of old CDs. We’ve used those in our garden to keep them from our blueberries, and my mom has hung them on her windows, but again, we have lots of windows, so that would be a lot of dangling CD ROMS.
We gardeners all tend to enjoy birds. Many of us feed them and put up houses for them. There’s such magic and beauty about them. Beyond the delightful beauty and bird songs, birds are very beneficial for the garden and yard environment.
We are very keen to help our feathered friends through the winter and now we’re hopeful we can keep more of them from unwittingly committing hari-kari on our window panes.
What’s Working for You?
If any of you, our fellow nature enthusiasts, have a system of protection that’s working well, we’d be delighted to add your advice here if you just drop us a line or two. Similarly, if you try any of these, please let us know how it’s working for you.
You may also enjoy our other unique bird rescue story featuring a golden crowned kinglet and a hawk. Or this one about an unusual white cardinal, that was not a rescue, but a regular residence of our property and visitor to our bird feeder.
Downy Woodpecker Rescue Attempt
In this video, we tried rescuing a young Downy Woodpecker but unfortunately he did not survive. 🙁 We are grateful that his last moments were gentle and filled with love. And that a majority of our bird rescues DO make it!
But this sad ending fortified our determination to find better solutions for bird deflectors.
Lessons Learned on Bird Deflectors and Deterrents
In our efforts to keep birds away from our blueberries and elderberries, we’ve tried a number of different solutions. The best so far is listed next.
Deflective Bird Tape
We used shiny bird tape with some success in previous years by surrounding our small blueberry orchard with the deflector tape. However, there were gaps in the coverage. So this year, Coleman devised a streamer approach that looks promising.
Check out this video explanation of our bird tape streamers.
Fruit Protection Bags
If you only have a few grapes or cluster berries, bags like these reusable fruit protectant bags on Amazon. You cover the fruits and they grow protected within the bags like miniature row covers or grow bags over bushes. However, if you have a lot of fruit to cover it would be way to time consuming to cover all clusters.
If you have too much fruit for bags, you can look into a sound deterrent. A local vineyard in our area has had luck using a motion activated owl decoy that also emits scary sounds and has flashing eyes.
However, these can be expensive, with variable efficacy. Drawback could include repelling garden friendly insect eating pollinators, as well as creating a noisy garden environment unpleasant to gardeners.
Sonic Sound Deterrents
We’ve heard and read that these sonic sound bird deterrents aren’t super effective. If you have good experience with these, please let us know and we’ll add that here.
Netting is effective for protection against birds. We used it for blueberries. But… it’s not pretty and we’ve had a bird caught in there. We got to it in time to free the bird, but it was very entangled and if we had missed a day, it would’ve died in the heat without water. So we removed our netting and have lost berries instead, while figuring this one out for the orchard area.
We also lost all our mahonia berries to birds this year. A lesser known fruit, high in vitamin C and easy to grow. Lesser known because the flavor isn’t as wonderful as the other more familiar berries, but it’s pleasant medicine for health and prevention.
So a full bush cover cloth might work better for our mahonia bushes, but we’re still leery of trapping birds
Motion Activated Sprinklers
Movement – Wind Activated Motion
We have had some success using a cool owl deterrent with piercing eyes and a bobble head that swivels from the wind. Ours is basic and doesn’t have sound. We named it Owlfie. 🦉
Tip from Tufts Wildlife Clinic
“Relocate feeders, birdbaths and other attractants to new locations. Bird strikes usually occur at particular windows, so moving feeders farther away from them may solve the problem entirely. You can also try placing your feeders much closer to the glass. If a feeder is just a foot or two from a window, birds may still fly into it, but not with enough force to injure themselves.”
~Tufts Wildlife Clinic, North Grafton, MA
Comments from the Community
I use bird scare tape on my blueberries. I do not put them out until the berries are close to ripe so the birds do not get used to them.
Please let us know what you’re using that’s working and we can add it here.
Let’s keep on growing… and protecting those precious birds!
G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson