Help birds avoid window strikes

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

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A red-eyed vireo takes flight after recovering at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. The vireo was brought to the wildlife hospital for care after striking a window.

A red-eyed vireo and an American kestrel were among the 66 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a Swainson’s thrush, a hooded warbler, a gopher tortoise and three marsh rabbits.

The vireo was rescued by people who found it on the ground near a window. They called the Wildlife Hospital for advice because the bird seemed unable to fly.

We assumed the bird was dazed from colliding with the window and recommended they capture and bring it to the hospital for assistance.

When they went to contain the bird, it was still able to flutter and evaded capture. Luckily, they were persistent and eventually managed to secure the bird in a box.

When the vireo arrived, it was alert and responsive but still seemed slightly dazed. Staff administered an anti-inflammatory medication to help with any swelling that may have occurred when the bird hit the window. The vireo was then placed in a small container (to limit activity) in an animal intensive care unit while it rested.

After several hours, staff checked on the vireo. It appeared much more alert and, although it was in a smaller container, it was actively flying against the sides trying to escape.

At that point, the warbler was taken to the bird room to test fly and observe its behavior in an open setting. The vireo did fantastic; it was able to fly and maintain height. It showed no signs of respiratory distress or long-lasting neurological damage from the window strike. Staff released the vireo shortly after.

Various migratory bird species are traveling through our area as they head south for the winter. Window strikes are a common cause of injury. Windows become deadly because clear and reflective glass fool birds into thinking it is an open flyway. Collision victims often suffer head trauma such as brain swelling. It is estimated that one out of every two window strikes is fatal.

There are several ways to prevent birds from striking windows.

Covering windows with insect screening may protect birds and stop them from hitting unyielding glass.

Moving bird feeders within three feet of a window will prevent injury and death because birds can’t build up enough momentum to injure themselves if they strike the window.

Decals are effective if spaced between two and four inches apart. Place strips of Mylar or strung beads every four inches if you hang them vertically or two inches apart if you hang them horizontally.

Aside from window strikes, birds face many other perils as they migrate hundreds, if not thousands of miles. Habitat loss and degradation and domestic pet attacks are common causes of injury.

There are many ways to help birds that migrate to our area — planting native plants provides food and shelter, monitoring pets when they are allowed outdoors, and bypassing flocks of birds that are resting on the beach are simple ways to reduce danger for these migratory species.

  • 2 eastern cottontails
  • 1 pine warbler
  • 1 northern mockingbird
  • 1 eastern screech owl
  • 1 gray catbird
  • 1 red-shouldered hawk
  • 1 ovenbird
  • 1 broad-winged hawk
  • 4 grey squirrels

Please visit our website at www.conservancy.org and learn about the many opportunities there are to get involved.

Volunteers are vital in our efforts to assist native wildlife.

If you are unable to give of your time as a volunteer, become a member or donate.

However you choose to become involved, your support will help the Conservancy continue to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

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Protecting Southwest Florida's unique natural environment and quality of life...now and forever.

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