Saving Birds With Reflective Tape

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray

I don’t think we are unlike most other people and we hate it when a bird flies into one of our windows and is injured or dies. Most birds just knock themselves out and if they don’t go into shock from the impact they recover. If I hear them hit I go to their aid and help revive them. I’ll hold them in my hand and keep them warm with my hands and wait for them to come to again. I will often talk soothingly to them, too. I don’t know if the talk helps or not but most seem to remain calmer and do recover. The longest it has taken to revive a bird has been a couple hours for a hairy woodpecker that really took a hard jolt upon collision. With that bird it was touch and go several times but tender care and calm reassuring talk seem to finally work. When the collisions happen during the winter I will often cradle them in my hands and bring them inside and hold them by the wood stove to warm up.

I have tried other methods over the years to keep these window collisions from happening with poor success. Sometimes the bird is being chased by another bird and they see the glass and its reflection and probably believe it is an escape route. As can be seen by the above photo the window reflects images very well and I believe the birds also sometimes see their image in the window and try to drive the ‘offending’ bird off or attack it. I have finally found something that reflects back at them and does not impair our views when we look outside. It is Mylar holographic bird scare ribbon. It is 2” wide and we bought a 100’ roll for around $6.00. It has small prisms all over both sides and because it is light the slightest wind will move it refracting light from those prisms and it seems effective in scaring the birds to keep from flying into the window.

Installing the Mylar Tape

What had me searching for this tape was two birds on two successive days flew into the window and died. We can go weeks with none hitting our windows and then it will be repetitive and often fatal. I believe it may have to do with the time of year and/or the position of the sun/cloud cover that causes reflections in the glass. What I find so good about this tape is it is light, has prism reflectors within the tape and it is strong but still light enough to move with the slightest breeze. Installation is as easy as cutting it to length and pinning it in place with a thumb tack. If a thumb tack won’t work tape could also be used to hold it in place. Mylar tape is very strong but to keep it from tearing loose from the wind I put about one inch of duct tape on the end where I used the thumb tack. We get pretty severe winds in the mountains and using the duct tape keeps me from having to go out and replace the holographic tape after strong winds.

Having two inch wide tape hanging from our window may not be the most attractive solution; however we live in the woods and no one but the birds and us will see it. To me having it deter birds is better than hearing a thump and going out to see a crumpled bird laying there. We have an abundance of birds and they keep our insect population in check. We therefore owe it to them to prevent them from flying into windows and getting injured. We benefit greatly from having them around as insect consumers. We watched one family of fly catchers this year build a nest and lay three tiny eggs which hatched into babies and grow up to adult birds. We watched the adults feed the babies an incredible amount of insects they caught. To have one of the adults fly into the window would disrupt the lives of those little baby birds and now that the baby birds are out on their own we would hate to lose one by crashing into the window.

We have attracted them here by providing flying corridors and making water available from our two all year under ground springs. We don’t want to attract them just to have them crash into our windows and become injured or die. We benefit from their presence and they benefit from our doing all we can to protect them. The holographic tape seems a good workable summer solution. Fewer birds remain in the winter due to migration so it is not as necessary at that time of year as it is when they are nesting and seeking food in the summer.

Mylar bird scare holographic tape seems to work for Bruce and Carol McElmurray, and for more on them and their mountain lifestyle go