Cities provide a backdrop for some of the most prominent human-wildlife conflicts, and Washington DC is no different. In the spring and fall, millions of migratory birds travel along the Atlantic flyway, which includes the Washington DC area.
Here at City Wildlife, we take in more birds at these times of the year than any other, and more times than not, it is due to dangers that are uniquely present where humans live. Here are a few common causes of injury to migratory birds:
Migratory birds are unfamiliar with urban environments. The birds have difficulty differentiating large glass windows and modern glass office buildings from open space and regularly fly directly into these transparent or reflective surfaces. These collisions can be deadly or can result in concussions.
There are a few different ways you can prevent bird collisions at home:
- Cover your windows with blinds or drapes. Decreasing
the visibility on one side of the window provides a barrier that birds can sense. (Make sure this doesn’t increase your window’s reflectivity, however.)
- Apply stickers or tape to the window at 4 inch intervals. ABC Bird tape provides an easy-to-use product along with helpful instructions. But Post-It Notes work well too! You can make fun designs and really be creative. Any disruption of a reflective or transparent surface aids birds in recognizing it.
- Install window screens. Screens installed more than a few inches away from the windows can provide a visual and physical barrier for birds and can soften any collision.
- Turn off your lights between 11 pm and 7 am. Lighting attracts birds and Interior lighting makes windows seem non-existent: birds think the interior is accessible.
One of our programs, Lights Out DC, works to prevent window strikes downtown. We work with building owners and managers to educate the public about the dangers to migratory birds traveling through the city. Volunteers also monitor known window collision sites to find any dead or injured birds. If you are interested in volunteering for Lights Out, check out the page here or fill out a volunteer application.
Outdoor cats are a contentious issue in the environmental community. Although they are parts of our families, cats are not a natural part of the environment and greatly impact the populations of birds all at all times of year. According to the Smithsonian Institute, outdoor cats kill somewhere between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds per year. By keeping your cats indoors, you can aid in maintaining a balanced ecosystem in our area.
Fall: Halloween Decorations
During the fall migration season (September through early November), spider web netting in trees is a common sight in trees and yard decorations. While this might add an eerie effect for Halloween, this netting is extremely dangerous to birds and other wildlife. Every year we take in many injured (and dead) animals that have been trapped in this netting. Just like a real spider web, the more animals struggle to escape, the worse they are entangled – resulting in starvation, dehydration or suffocation. It is better to avoid this type of decoration entirely.
As always, it is important to remember the impact our actions have on all of the lives around us. We hope some of these tips can help you protect our wild neighbors from harm caused by the human environment.