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Why Do Birds Hit Windows? (Science, Prevention And Symbolism)

Although uncommon, a bird may fly into or tap on your window. When a bird hits a windows, this may happen for several reasons. Windows have high reflectivity and birds may perceive the reflection as a continuation of the sky or land around. In other situations, a bird may mistake its own reflection for that of a rival, and attempt to attack the reflection to defend their territory. Night-time migrants may become confused by light sources and collide with buildings in the dark.

Some believe there is spiritual symbolism behind a bird hitting a window. It is traditionally believed that this is a sign of change in your life. However, whether this is a positive or negative sign is disputed.

Whether you want to find out the scientific reasons behind a bird hitting or tapping a window, or gain a little more information about the spiritual meaning, you have come to the right place. Birds are fascinating creatures and their habits are intriguing to learn about. And the good news is you can easily help prevent birds from hitting your window!

Why Do Birds Hit Windows?

Scientific Background

Birds are constantly busy foraging for food, defending their territory, building nests, looking for mates, and warding off potential predators. Their reflexes need to be extremely fast in order to pluck insects from the air or avoid the pounce of a predator.

To account for this, birds have what is called rapid vision. A study revealed that three passerine species (songbirds) can “see incredibly fast”. This means they can detect very rapid light and dark cycles, helping them decect fast moving objects and improve their visual resolution. The species used in the study could detect cycles up to 145 Hz, approximately 50 Hz faster than any currently known vertebrate species.

In short, this improves their survival chances both in the pursuit of food and the evasion of predators. But what does this mean when it comes to windows?

Reflections During Day-time

Well, the reflections in windows can confuse birds. If they see the reflection of sky, vegetation, or a passing insect they may continue to fly, mistaking the window for a continuation of the real world. One study estimated that, in the US alone, between 365 and 988 million birds die every year due to colliding with buildings.

Alternatively, birds may see potted plants through the window and mistake them for outdoor foliage.

In the Spring, competition for nesting sites and mates is intense and can lead to some species becoming very territorial. Male birds may mistake their own reflection for another male, and try to attack it in order to defend their territory.

Robins, mockingbirds and cardinals are particularly territorial birds, and will swoop towards invaders to drive them away from their established territorial bounds. Usually this behaviour stops once territories have been established and birds have settled down with a mate and begun to raise chicks. However, birds like cardinals may continue all year round.

When you have rapid vision and cannot detect the difference between reflections and actual vegetation, this can lead to fatal consequences for birds.

Night-time Collisions

Although a rarer event, birds may hit windows during the night. This is because the lights of urban areas, or isolated houses within the countryside, may disorientate and divert migrant bird species which fly during the night.

Migrants may be drawn to the light (the reasons for this are under investigation and have not been fully determined yet) and stick around the lighted area. This may result in collisions with light sources.

Alternatively, migrants which hang around urban areas may be more prone to collisions during the daytime too, as they are confused and have been diverted from their normal course.

Mor information about this can be found here.

What Happens When A Bird Hits A Window?

Unfortunately hitting a window often leads to death for a bird, depending on how hard it hit the window. Even if it is only stunned and flies away again afterwards, it may die later from internal damage.

Birds which attack their own reflection are unlikely to die or sustain long-term damage from this. Usually, they will give up when they realise their attempts are not yielding any results!

It is therefore a good idea to do something to prevent birds hitting your window and dying.

What You Can Do To Stop Birds Hitting Your Window

Large, uninterrupted windows are the most likely target for birds to hit. Windows with birdfeeders closeby may also present a hazard.

According to current knowledge, breaking the window up vertically can help prevent birds hitting the window. Vertical markings should be applied to the outside of the window, and spaced depending on the target bird species that keeps hitting your window. Markings can be made by:

  • Tempera paint or soap
  • Decals or stickers
  • Dot Patterns and tape
  • Acopian Bird Savers (zen curtains)
  • Screens or netting
  • One-way transparent film

See here for more recommendations and guidance on how to apply these materials effectively.

Another thing you can do to prevent collisions during the night is to direct lights away from windows at night or install downward-facing lights or lightshades. It is also recommended to turn off non-essential lights to reduce light pollution, particularly in cities where birds can become confused and disorientated.

The Fatal Light Awareness Program in Canada helps to raise awareness and provides a whole host of information of the dangers of migrant bird collisions in urban areas. They campaign to save and prevent birds which hit windows and buildings due to light sources.

What Does It Mean When A Bird Hits Your Window? Spiritual Symbolism

In many cultures and regions around the world, birds hold an important spiritual meaning. Some see birds as messengers, transmitting messages from gods or guardian angels. Other see them as omens – good or bad.

It is important not to get hung up on this. Sometimes superstitions are simply superstitions, and you should not let them rule your life. However, seeing signs can be meaningful to people, reminding them about what is important in their lives. Perhaps it can help you to re-focus and make some critical changes.

Change

A commonly held belief is that a bird hitting the window symbolises a change in your life. It may represent a major challenge in your life which will arise soon. This could be the break up or a relationship or the end of a big event in your life.

Others may call this an “impending transition”.

Although many take this as a bad omen, it could be a good one. While it may symbolise the end of one chapter, it could also mean the beginning of a new one.

Death

When a bird hits a window and dies, a straightforward interpretation of this is death. It may be that someone close to you has died recently and that they are trying to send you a message by sending a bird. This has sometimes been noted on days which are of importance to people, perhaps a birthday or anniversary that meant something to you and your loved one. Or it may be a bad omen that someone around you may experience bad health or die in the upcoming future.

It is possible that a guardian angel is sending you a message via the bird, trying to keep you safe and remind you of an important message.

Bird Tapping The Window

If you see a bird repeatedly tapping at your window this could mean a positive or negative omen. It may be that the bird is trying to get your attention, to warn you about something or send you a message. Is there something you need to pay attention to?

It may be a good idea to take a step back from your life and ask yourself some questions. Is there something that required more focus in your life? Are there any gaps? Could you make any self improvements?

Type Of Bird

Some believe that the type of bird that hits a window is significant. Different birds may hold different meanings. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Dove: these birds often represent innocence, purity and peace. Often people see doves as good symbols, signs of hope.
  • Bluebird: the color of this bird is bright and joyful. Some people believe this means good news.
  • Blackbird: while folklore in some regions of the world associate blackbirds with death and bad omens, other traditions believe they can symbolise safety and security.
  • Owl: these birds are often associated with wisdom and knowledge. However, some traditions believe owls could symbolise bad health.

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