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Creature Feature: Flight Risk

In the U.S. alone, window glass could be killing millions of birds a day

In the U.S. alone, window glass could be killing millions of birds a day

Though watching birds out the back window is a joy for millions of people, windows become deadly for a staggering number of birds each year.
WILLIE MANALO/ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
Wherever they fly—above cities, through suburban backyards, over country fields—birds face an indiscriminate threat. Hurtling toward tall buildings, houses, shopping malls, even automobiles, they’re unable to recognize clues like sills or framework that might warn them to hit the brakes before they smash into a window. To an animal with a literal bird’s-eye view, the transparency and reflectivity of glass indicates smooth sailing ahead.

“Birds can respond to just a tiny spot of light, and what’s more, they’re flying,” says ornithologist Daniel Klem, who has studied the issue for three decades. “Their ability to fly makes them vulnerable, because they can instantly build up enough momentum to kill themselves. They could leave a perch on a twig of a tree or a bush just slightly over three feet away and … strike the glass. Unless your window’s totally dirty or you’ve put something on it, these animals are just deceived.”

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