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Tips for avoiding bird strikes during spring migration

Julie Dickie is a state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator in northern Minnesota.

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With spring bird migration in full swing, bird strikes against windows are more common. A local wildlife rehabilitator offers tips.

It is time for our migratory friends to come visit. Some will stay and some are passing through on their journey further north.

It is a great time for bird watchers to catch a sighting and for bird enthusiasts to enjoy an abundant variety.

Every year, at this time, we get many calls for birds that have struck windows. The birds are tired, and like people when we get tired, they don’t always make the best quick decisions. Generally, the strikes are near areas where birds are gathering to eat.

If you have feeders out, placing the feeders no more than 4 feet from windows can help. The birds may still fly from the feeder and strike your window, but with less area to pick up speed the hit is generally not as hard.

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Feeders attached directly to the window work well.

There are both commercial products and homemade products to help reduce the strikes. Anything that causes the birds to recognize that the glass is not a pass through helps. (You can use it as an excuse to avoid washing your windows!) From decals to streamers, anything that closes open areas to 4” or less gaps will help considerably.

When the inevitable happens and the bird strikes the window and falls to the ground or your deck, you can help it. A very important thing to remember is that birds have a healthy and natural fear of people. While it may seem like your holding it and stroking its head is soothing, it is terrifying for the bird.

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A shoebox with flip lid, air holes and a paper towel works great as a quiet box.

The best course of action is to keep a small cardboard box near your door. The box should have a lid, some air holes punched in it and a paper towel in the bottom. Gently place the bird in the box and close the lid. The lid should be placed in a dark, very quiet location away from children, pets, onlookers and noise.

Think of a person with a migraine or concussion. This is likely what the bird is experiencing. They need quiet darkness. They do not need food or water in the box. The paper towel serves two purposes. It keeps the box clean so it can be reused, and it keeps the bird from sliding on the cardboard and injuring their legs.

Leave the box alone for about an hour. Open the box in an open area near where you found the bird – away from the window, if possible. Hopefully, the bird will fly away. If it is standing in the box and seems like it doesn’t want to fly, close the box and give it more “time out” time.

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If it is late in the day, it is fine to keep it in the box overnight and release it in the morning. If it tries but can’t fly it may have dislocated its shoulder(s). It will need to be taken to a wildlife rehabber for care.

If you don’t have a box or do not want to touch the bird, if you place a box or bucket (with some air hole) over the bird it will protect it from predators while it regains its wits.

Sometimes they suffer a broken neck or other severe head trauma and there is nothing you will be able to do to save them. Just know that happens and it is not your fault. We save those we can. If you need further information, you can call Northwoods Wildlife Rescue at 218-616-2176.

Julie Dickie is a state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator in northern Minnesota. Her nonprofit organization, Northwoods Wildlife Rescue, captures and releases all manner of wounded creatures. Julie and her husband, Jeff, are unpaid volunteers.

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