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Are your windows killing birds? How to prevent strikes

| Friday, March 18, 2016, 11:54 a.m.
Washable tempera paint can be used on windows to stop birds from crashing into them. The paint, which can be applied with stencils or freehand, breaks up the reflections of trees and shrubbery that birds fly toward believing they are real.
The window fixtures Acopian BirdSavers makes using parachute cord to deter birds from flying into windows.

With a house close to the Eastern Pennsylvania woods — and the wildlife that lives there — Jeff Acopian wrestled with a problem that afflicts homeowners around the country.

“Birds were hitting our windows and dying,” the Easton resident says. “And we didn't like it.”

An engineer by profession and a naturalist at heart, Acopian came up with a solution: Acopian BirdSavers, a fixture that involves dangling pieces of parachute cord in front of windows to keep birds from flying into them.

“It sounds pretty bad when you tell someone to hang strings on their front window,” says Acopian, who nixed his original remedy, hanging strings of beads, because it made his house look like “a hippie pad.”

“But when people actually see it, it is not objectionable at all,” he says.

BirdSavers (at birdsavers.com) is one of a growing number of options available for folks who want to keep birds from crashing into their windows but don't want to hurt their home's curb appeal in the process.

Christine Sheppard, who runs a bird crash campaign for the American Bird Conservancy, cites a range of relatively simple ready-made products — BirdSavers, window tape and external screens among them — as well as DIY fixes like washable window paint or hanging branches in front of windows, that are effective enough while also being subtle.

While bird strikes are hardly new, she says, the magnitude of the problem is increasing, largely because of more widespread urbanization and a trend toward larger panes of glass in both residential and high-rise construction.

Joanna Eckles, the National Audubon Society's bird-friendly communities manager, says individuals can easily reduce those numbers simply by putting a visual barrier on the exterior of the windows.

“This is preventable,” she says.

That prevention, she says, could take a range of shapes.

The American Bird Conservancy's Bird Tape, available at abcbirdtape.org, is translucent and can be used to design patterns on windows. Bird screen, available at birdscreen.com, creates a barrier between birds and windowpanes. CollidEscape, available at collidescape.org, is a film that you put on outside windowpanes to reduce reflection.

The options are infinite for do-it-yourselfers, Eckles says. With washable paint, you can use stencils or let the kids create holiday decorations. Hanging virtually anything easy on the eyes — ribbons, delicate branches, strings — in front of windows will do the trick. So will the unobtrusive netting that's used to protect fruit trees.

Not every window needs to be made bird-safe, nor do all windows need the same remedy. It's up to homeowners to decide, based on which windows attract birds, and at what time of day or year.

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