Warblers versus windows


BirdTape helps birds avoid hitting glass windows and being injured or killed.

Published April 15, 2012, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “It’s quite clear—birds losing war on the windows.”

2014 Update: Visit American Bird Conservancy, https://www.abcbirds.org, for more ways to protect migrating birds.

By Barb Gorges

Wyoming is a tourist destination. We love statistics on how many visitors come from how many other states and countries. We also try to keep visitors safe, reminding them to stay hydrated at our high, dry elevation, to stay away from dangerous wildlife and to avoid summer lightning storms.

Spring migration is like the beginning of tourist season for birds. On May 19 members of Cheyenne – High Plains Audubon Society and friends will again hit the local birding hotspots, hopefully at the peak of migration, to see how many different species of birds can be counted.

Some years we hit the shorebird migration just right and others it’s the flycatchers. But every year we hope will be a warbler year. We scour the tree branches for those smaller-than-sparrow-sized, color-coded birds which are scouring the same branches for insects to devour.

Over the previous 18 years we have had 31 of North America’s 50 warbler species visit. Only four have made it every year: yellow warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, common yellowthroat and Wilson’s warbler—probably because they are part of the 12 warblers breeding in Wyoming, and because they are abundant species.

Others we’ve seen only once because they breed in eastern North America and, for some reason take the scenic route through Cheyenne. They include golden-winged warbler, black-throated blue warbler, worm-eating warbler, prothonotary warbler, and six others.

Almost all of these were observed at one of Cheyenne’s two Wyoming Important Bird Areas, Lions Park and Wyoming Hereford Ranch. But there is reason to believe that all of Cheyenne, wherever there are trees and shrubs hosting insects, is hosting common and rare warblers, if only people look.

Casual observation of Mark’s and my yard has turned up nine species, including regular appearances of a Wilson’s or a yellow-rumped, sometimes a MacGillivray’s, and once, a chestnut-sided warbler.

Between mid-April and mid-June, who knows how many warblers pass through our yard? Maybe our retriever knows. Last year I caught her eating at least two after they were injured flying into our window.

While I’m fine with continuing to keep our remaining cat indoors year round (the other passed on last month at nearly 14 years old) we need the dog on squirrel defense duty. But even if we didn’t, there would still be injured birds.

Short of plywood over this one deadly window, how can we keep birds from hitting the glass? I tried a small sticker in the middle, but over the winter we collected a wreath all around it of lovely imprints of Eurasian collared-dove wings and tails, outlined in feather dust on the glass, where they tried to avoid the sticker.

Hanging dangly, shiny objects in front of the window probably wouldn’t work with the caliber of breezes we get—the objects would end up stuck in the gutter or perhaps banging on, and breaking, the window.

The American Bird Conservancy has come out with a new product this spring, BirdTape, which we are going to try. It sticks to the outside of the glass, breaks up the reflective surface that fools the birds, and is transluscent—like frosted glass.

The strips of ¾-inch-wide BirdTape can be applied vertically four inches apart, or horizontally two inches apart. Studies show that our backyard birds will try to zoom between obstacles spaced any greater distance. It obviously takes less tape to do the vertical arrangement.

The tape also comes in rolls three inches wide. These can be cut into squares placed in a pattern leaving spaces between them four inches horizontally and two inches vertically. I didn’t do the math to see which tape size’s pattern is more economical. Your choice might have more to do with whether you prefer bars or floating squares.

Currently, BirdTape is available through www.ABCBirdTape.org or call 1-888-247-3624.

I’m not sure I like the idea of anything impeding my view of our backyard, but with up to a billion birds hitting home windows each year, according to ABC, I want to give this product a try. It’s the least I can do to protect avian tourists on their annual spring, and fall, visits to Wyoming.