Preventing Bird Window Collisions

November 15th, 2008

Windows provide a view to outside world.  For many, spending idle hours staring out of the window at the birds and nature in their backyards is a true pleasure.  Unfortunately, these same windows can be a hazard for birds who don’t see them and slam into a window.  About half of all birds who fly into a window either die immediately or later perish because of their injuries.  Preventing window collisions is extremely important!

There are several things that you can do the make your home safer for the birds that live right outside.  Unfortunately, many well meaning people exacerbate the situation by placing bird feeders and bird baths either too close to a window or, ironically, to far away from a window.  Placing a feeder extremely close to a window will prevent birds from gaining enough speed to seriously hurt themselves when they strike a window.  On the flip side, putting a feeder far enough away from a window will give birds enough time to avoid a window strike once they realize what is happening.  Generally, feeders should either be placed within about 3 feet of a window or 30 feet away from a window.  For this reason, window bird feeders are actually a safe way to feed your feathered friends.  On the other hand, feeders placed away from windows should be placed FAR away from windows.

Another way to avoid window collisions is to make them more obvious to the birds.  Windows with lattices are much safer for birds because birds can clearly see the lattice.  The closer the lattice design is, the more effective this will be.  Of course, investing in new windows isn’t always a practical option, but there are other simple tips you can use to make the glass stand out.  Simply closing your blinds or shutters is often enough to prevent birds from hitting your window.  Installing window screens will also help to prevent collisions, and it has an added benefit of slowing birds down if they do happen to strike a window.  Many people also decorate their windows to make them stand out.  This can be a fun activity to involve kids in as well.  For example, many people like to put up festive pictures in their windows like snowflakes or snowmen in the winter.  Window alert decals are an easy way to make windows stand out to birds.  These decals easily attach to your window.  They are unobtrusive, as to the human eye, they look like frosted or tinted glass.  However, to birds, these simple decorative decals stand out, which prevents birds from hitting the glass.

Whatever you decide to do, I encourage you all to consider this problem seriously.  Window collisions are one of the leading preventable causes of death for wild birds.  While we all love the birds that grace our yard, we must be careful to protect their safety, especially when we invite them with seed or water.  At this point, in many ways, they really have become our responsibility.  So lets keep them safe!

Broken Camera Card

March 8th, 2008

If you’ve ever wondered what a camera card looked like on the inside, take a look. Early this week, I was taking some shots of Finches in my yard. I went inside and excitedly pulled the card out to see what I had captured. But, as I slid my card out of my camera, it split in two. Sigh. :(

Now to see what I could recover! I smooshed the card back together and held it firmly as I stuck it into my computer. To my delight, it was reading the card! I was able to recover some of my pictures, but others would not copy.

The next task was to buy a new camera card. I procrastinated as I knew that camera cards were very expensive. But, when I found myself at an office supplies store on a completely unrelated errand, I knew I had to plunk down the change and buy a new card……I was shocked! The prices on camera cards have really come down since I last bought one. My new camera card has twice the capacity and cost 1/4 of what my last card did.

So, I haven’t had much of a chance to photograph anything in my yard this week. But, I did have all the left over pictures on my camera card that I was able to salvage. Here is a collection of pictures that have never made it past my camera card.

My cat likes to watch the birds as much as I do! :)
Finch action shot!
The Finches in my yard are getting pretty used to me. I was only about 1 1/2 yards away from these birds when I shot this.
Extra credit for anyone who can identify this bird. I saw it at the aquarium near us, but I couldn’t identify it. (Shouldn’t they have a sign?)

Black Phoebe Discovery

February 28th, 2008

During the Great Backyard Bird Count, I noticed a Black Phoebe in my yard. I had seen them a couple of times before, but not very often. So, I was pretty excited to see one and record it for the bird count.

Then, yesterday, I noticed that there were some bird droppings on the phone box outside my house. The phone box is located on the side of the house, and around Los Angeles, you don’t get much room on the side of your house. So, I rarely go over there. (Not much to see except my neighbor’s house!) I looked up, and sure enough, there was a Black Phoebe sleeping on a wire from my phone box just below the roof overhang of our house.

This is the second time that this has happened. We had another bird that decided to start sleeping on the same wire. But, it chose a spot on the wire in the backyard, so it was much more obvious. Well…actually…to be more specific, it chose a spot right above our doormat in the backyard. Our doormat is black. I’m sure you’re getting a picture in your head; it wasn’t a pretty sight! :)

As I thought back, I realized that I had heard some bird activity recently on the side of our house. It is pretty cool that this Black Phoebe has decided to make its home on our property. Black Phoebes are attracted to water, and our neighbor has quite a water feature in their yard. I guess it is no surprise that it likes our side yard!

Trying to Photograph a Hummingbird

February 25th, 2008

It has been a wet week in Southern California! My feeders have run dry, and I need to get out there and fill them. I couldn’t bare the thought of climbing my tree to fetch my feeders in the rain, so I have put it off. I look forward to the return of the birds!

Before I ran out of food, I noticed that some hummingbirds were feeding from a flower that had recently bloomed in my yard. I set up my BirdCam to catch the action, but they never returned. Oh well. No hummingbirds this week. But, I did get some pictures of the mourning doves that like to visit my yard.

I also got a picture of a sparrow ground feeding.

They were a little blurry. What I was really aiming for was this flower.

No hummingbirds. :( Oh, well.

Remember, you still have until the end of the month to submit your reports to The Great Backyard Bird Count. Here’s what I saw in my yard:

Sunday February 17, 2008
7 House Finches
2 Mourning Doves
1 Black Phoebe
1 Hummingbird (Couldn’t identify type…too fast!)
2 Gulls (Couldn’t identify type…too high and too fast!)

Monday, February 18, 2008
1 Orange-crowned Warbler
10 House Finches
10 Goldfinches
1 White-crowned Sparrow
1 Mourning Dove
1 Hummingbird (Couldn’t identify type…too fast!)

The Great Backyard Bird Count

February 10th, 2008

The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up! Every year the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and thousands of bird lovers unite to get a picture of where birds are across North America. Last year, 81,003 bird sighting checklists were submitted that included 11,082,387 individual birds counted. Everyone can help the Great Backyard Bird Count by simply counting the birds in your backyard, at a park, in a nature preserve, or in a city. Checklists are provided based on where you live, and there are easy links to help you identify the birds in your area. All you need is fifteen minutes to watch the birds!

The results from previous years are published on The Great Backyard Bird Count’s Web site. It’s a lot of fun to look through your town and see what other people have reported in the past. Now it’s your turn! I hope all of you get involved in this fun and important project.

Click here for more information about The Great Backyard Bird Count.

Ground Feeders

February 7th, 2008

I set up my BirdCam early this week to start catching some pictures of the ground feeders under my seed bird feeders. These little guys are willing to wait and catch what falls from the feeder above. Below, you will see the second most common visitor in my yard, the White-crowned Sparrow. Adult White-crowned Sparrows have a distinctive back and white streaked head. Immature White-crowned Sparrows have a similar pattern on their head with much more subdued gray and brown colors. I see these birds everyday in my yard, but I have never seen one fly up to one of my feeders. They prefer to wait below!

House finches, house finches, house finches. They are everywhere in my yard!

That’s it! I was a little disappointed that the two Mourning Doves that live in my yard didn’t show up on the BirdCam. I have seen them ground feeding several times, but I have yet to capture a picture of them. They have a spot they like to perch in on my tree, but when I approach to take a picture they always fly away.

And now, for the number one ground feeder in my yard!

Finches in the Window

January 28th, 2008

The finches discovered my window feeder today! They weren’t too keen on its previous location as my cat would jump at the window. So, I placed it a little higher, and today I had some success. Ironically, my cat was sitting right below the feeder. All it took was raising the feeder two feet above where my cat stands, and some gutsy finches were willing to feed. I should have cleaned the window better, but here are some shots that I got.

This was a great shot…I wish I had cleaned my window. :( House finches are very common, but the male’s red coloring always amazes me.

Finches can get pretty aggressive at my feeders. Sometimes I worry that this will scare off other birds.

While I was taking pictures, my cat suddenly leaped into the air. No more birds. :( I cleaned off the windowpane and put more food in the feeder. A few birds came back, but my cat had scared most of them off. Check out this last shot with a clean window.

Much nicer. :) I hope the birds will continue to visit my window feeder. It sure is fun to see them this close. I literally got within two feet of the feeder!

Finally, a bird I hadn’t seen in my yard caught the corner of my eye. It didn’t go to any of my feeders. It just sat there, and then flew off. I snapped a few blurry photos, but I was too far away and too hurried to get anything good. It looks like it might have been a Black Phoebe.