Justine Kummer Image: U Alberta

Justine Kummer, a University of Alberta researcher recently released a new study on how we can best avoid bird-window collisions, particularly in residential areas.   Aside from predation from house cats, window collisions are the second largest human-caused killer of birds in Canada, but Kummer's research reveals there is very much we can do to change it.

Here in Canada, it is estimated that up to 42 million birds succumb to window collision deaths each year and 90 percent of those deaths are believed to be caused by residential windows.


Using citizen science; or the process of collecting and analyzing data in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists, allowed Kummer to gather a plethora of useful data.    The study was made up of 1,300 participants from Canada and around the world.

The basis of her study was to determine the effects of bird feeders and year-round feeding on birds, particularly where it intersects with window collisions.

“Backyard bird feeders create an important link between humans and nature,” says Kummer.

“Improving the relationship between the general public and nature can promote biodiversity and conservation. We are working to find successful ways to reduce bird-window collisions—beneficial not only for birds but also for the millions of people who feed them.”

As part of the study, trials took place across 55 windows at 43 different residences in the greater Edmonton area.  Researchers also placed feeders in a variety of distances from windows and assessed the results in an attempt to determine if the proximity of the feeder from the window made a difference in collision rates.

The study determined that collisions were nearly twice as common at homes that were equipped with feeders than those without and that the distance the feeders had from each window had less impact on the number of collisions than factors such as season and amount of available vegetation.

Pulled from her study, Kummer has summed up the following five recommendations for homeowners to institute in an effort to reduce the amount of bird-window collisions:

  • Place feeders within one meter of windows — birds will still use the feeder but most can’t build enough momentum to sustain serious injury if they hit the glass as they leave the feeder.
  • Placing feeders more than 10 meters from a window will also reduce risk. At this distance, birds are more likely to recognize the reflected image as part of a house.
  • Move houseplants and flowers away from windows, where they cannot be seen from outside. Birds will be less likely to mistake them for shelter or food.
  • Apply window decals or hang strings of objects to break up reflections, make transparent windows more visible and create a visual barrier.
  • Use ultraviolet window decals or windows with a UV pattern built in. Birds have colour receptors in the eye that allow them to see the ultraviolet portion of the color spectrum. Research has shown that UV patterns are highly visible to birds, though almost imperceptible to humans (flap.org) and can reduce collisions dramatically.

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