I’ve mentioned previously how much I enjoy having birds in the garden, and that I have several birdfeeders to entice them to visit. Most of the time this arrangement has been beneficial for both the birds and I. However, there is a dark side; from time to time, I have heard the sickening thud of those same birds crashing into my windows. The reason, according to The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP):
“Birds cannot see glass. They see a reflection of their habitat (trees, bushes, water, sky) in windows…Deceived by the reflection…birds often collide head-on with the windows and buildings themselves.”
Further reading says that about half of birds that crash into windows die, even if they initially do fly away.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology suggests the best place for feeders is within 3 feet of window glass, or more than 30 feet away—thus ensuring birds are either too close to get up to a speed where a collision would seriously harm them or too far away to be likely to collide with the window. I don’t have good spots to hang feeders within 3 feet of my windows and I don’t really want to put them more than 30 feet away–a large part of why I have feeders is so that I can see and enjoy birds up close.
I went looking for other ideas and found suggestions from FLAP for ways to treat window glass to either make it hard for birds to get at (e.g. exterior screens) or make it so the birds can see the glass (this is done by placing markers on the exterior side of the glass–FLAP warns the markers must be spaced no more than 2” apart). This sounded like an interesting option. I found a product called the Feather Friendly Residential Bird Collision Deterrent Marker-Pattern Tape* at the store where I buy birdseed. The store had applied the tape to a section of their front window. It looked like it could work, but I have to admit that it also looked like it was time-consuming and fiddly to install… I thought back on those horrible thuds of birds crashing into my windows and bought the tape.
Essentially, it’s a role of thin mesh tape, embedded at even intervals with small, super-sticky grey squares (they look a lot like little pieces of duct tape to me), packaged in a box with two paper measuring tapes and an instruction sheet with good, clear diagrams. The manufacturer says that once applied, the squares are supposed to last for 8 years or more. The cost is around $15 CDN for a roll.
You’re told to clean your windows well and then adhere the measuring tapes to your window, vertically. You then unroll the thin mesh tape and place it across the window, starting 2” from the top frame. You repeat this, placing a row of mesh tape across the window every 2”, for the entire height of the window. Then you rub a credit card along the tape to get out any air bubbles and ensure good adhesion. Finally, you peel off the mesh tape, leaving you with the end result—a dot-covered window that, supposedly, even a bird can see.
Real Life Application
The instructions say not to install this product below 10’C (50’F) so I picked a warm October day and did my first window, in the backyard. It was awkward, since I had to be on a ladder for a couple hours, and I’m no fan of heights. However, I was pleasantly surprised that, even perched as I was, the product went on fairly easily and the end result looked evenly spaced, even though I know it was far from perfect. It did take a couple hours to do because I didn’t clean the window as well as I should have, and therefore the little squares didn’t want to stick when I peeled off the mesh backing (Pro Tip: wash your windows really well!)
Once I’d figured that out I moved on to some of our front windows, cleaned them thoroughly, and the process was much smoother. I enlisted my husband to shoot some video as I worked, so that you could see for yourself what the application process is like. Here’s our video of the experience:
How Well Does It Work?
It’s been more than three months since I installed the Feather Friendly Marker-Pattern tape and I can tell you…it absolutely does work. I have three window openings in my house that are prone to bird strikes. I applied the tape on two of them and there have been no bird strikes that I’m aware of on those two windows. There have, unfortunately, been at least a few strikes on the third untreated window. I’ve also watched birds fly headlong toward the treated windows and then divert, as they realized it was a solid surface they could not fly through—they saw the glass!
I will be applying the tape to my third window as soon as the weather warms up.
#1 There is no getting around it—applying this product does take some time. If it lasts for the eight+ years it’s supposed to I believe it’s time well spent, but this is not a ten minute project.
#2 The dots are very visible from the street. I don’t think they look bad, but they are noticeable.
#3 The dots are very visible, at first, from inside. For the first month I found them quite distracting every time I looked out the window–my eye would stop at the dots, not really seeing beyond. Now, I barely even notice that they’re there.
So there you have it–a way to keep birds from crashing into your windows. What do you think–would you give it a try?
*Note: I purchased this product myself and did not receive any compensation or incentive from any company or individual affiliated with the product.