By Karen Leggett

In a 2014 Cooper Ornithological Society article, researchers estimated that up to 1 billion birds collide with residential and commercial buildings – particularly windows – and die each year in the United States. During the day, birds collide with windows because they see reflections of the landscape. At night, or in inclement weather during migrations, birds can be attracted to lighted buildings, resulting in collisions, entrapment, energy expenditure and exhaustion.

At least two national wildlife refuges and one U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facility have taken specific steps to reduce bird collisions, in some cases with funding from Friends groups.

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Pennsylvania installed three window treatments in its visitor center to reduce bird strikes and provide an educational opportunity. It started in 2008 when Audubon Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Zoo and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University surveyed center city Philadelphia and estimated 1,000 collisions each year in one city block. The Urban Bird Treaty ( provided some funding for the work.

Heinz Refuge then worked with Audubon Pennsylvania to select a range of window treatments. “We wanted easy things that folks could do at home but also higher-cost items for people building new homes,” says deputy refuge manager Mariana Bergerson.

The deluxe window treatment – used on one panel at the refuge's visitor center – is Ornilux Mikado glass with a pattern inspired by the orb web weaver spider, whose web reflects ultraviolet light so birds won't destroy the web. That glass was donated by Roeder Windows & Doors and Arnold Glas. The Friends of Heinz Refuge paid for installation.

A second panel has a thin film donated by CollidEscape. From inside, visitors see out normally, but from outside, birds see a wall of white.

The third panel offers a homemade solution: nylon parachute cord hung from the top of the window at 4½-inch intervals. The cords' movements break up the reflection for the birds.

Inside the visitor center, interpretive panels purchased by the Friends group will explain the bird-collision problem and various solutions. The information is shared with school groups and architecture students.

J.N. “Ding” Darling Refuge in Florida also is using the film produced by CollidEscape, after testing it for a year in a small area. Supervisory park ranger Toni Westland says the film reduces the aggressiveness of birds that see their reflection in windows. The film covers all the office windows, the visitor center door and the entrance to the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society (Friends) office – all decorated with specially designed graphics.

The Service's National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia also reports that CollidEscape film has greatly reduced bird hits on office windows.

“Refuges and Friends groups have a great opportunity to help educate visitors about bird-glass collisions,” says Alicia King, formerly with the Service's Migratory Bird Program. “Simple solutions can help save bird lives. These solutions can be used at schools, at offices and at individual homes.”

Among solutions are:

  • Check regularly for dead birds to identify windows that are causing problems.
  • Place feeders within five feet of screened windows.
  • Move indoor plants away from clear glass windows.
  • Break up window glass with patterns applied on the outside of the glass.
  • Turn off lights in windowed offices at night.
  • Avoid exterior vanity and spot lighting, especially during bird breeding and migration periods.
  • Use white or light-colored blinds, kept partially open during the day and completely closed at night.

Karen Leggett is a writer-editor in the Refuge System Branch of Communications.