FROM DINGLE HILL: For The Birds – January 2023

By Peg DiBenedetto

Wham! Wham!

Two projectile missiles hit the upstairs window. No dead bodies this time. But they hit hard. Upon the glass are faint outlines and a bit of residual feather fluff. I thought these particular windows were out of the line of fire. But my bird-feeding husband has moved the feeder pole, from which hang various attractive and unattractive seed receptacles. He’s moved it closer to the house, farther from the stone wall that acrobatic squirrels have used for years to fling themselves from, in what seemed hazardous and hilarious bodily contortions onto our feeding station for the purpose of consuming wondrous and expensive amounts of black oil sunflower seeds. Now, said feeding station is positioned differently in regards to the house, and now, apparently, these windows are at an aspect that birds cannot perceive as windows. They catch reflections of the trees near the wall and the birds are unintentionally, yet cleverly, drawn to them with the promise of a whole new forest beyond. So they fly full speed ahead, then Wham! into the glass. What an abrupt and painful surprise that must be. Anyone walked into a closed sliding glass door lately?

Letting the birds know a window—a glass barrier—exists, requires an indication of depth. A window indicator placed on the outside of the glass indicates “not open space.” It’s why, after walking into a closed sliding glass door, a person realizes the value of stickers. But for birds, the clue needs to be more texturized and placed on the exterior. No matter what you do on the inside, the reflective glass tricks birds into thinking they are flying into space, not a window. Any barrier to window strikes has to be on the outside.

What to do? For years my grandkids and I painted fun and colorful scenes on the lower windows of our house with washable kid paints; effective, but not feasible for the upper windows. Ads in bird magazines ironically sell very pretty “bird proof” window stickers that purport to save countless bird lives. They generally don’t work. A more expensive line of UV stickers and gel can be purchased for the outside of the windows that works for a short time, then you have to spend more money and do it all over again. Which is not so easy when sitting on an upper story windowsill, with the top half of your body hanging 20 feet above the ground. A better, effective strategy is called an acopian barrier which I discovered when said grandkids got bored with the whole “let’s paint with Grandma” thing.

   The acopian method works like this: I stapled 5’ lengths of black parachute cord every 4” across my 28” wide by 5’ high windows. I have not had a bird strike on those windows since. The cord hangs loosely at the bottom, sways in subtle breezes, and is not obtrusive. Luckily our house is, shall we say, lived-in, with old board siding that makes it easy to nail or staple up whatever we want to, and who cares what it looks like? But a fancier home might need more finesse to install an acopian barrier; still, though, not difficult to do. The black cord makes the windows look kind of artsy, not trashy, at least not to me, and I bet not to the birds.

But here I am, in an emergency situation.