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Simple steps to keep birds from hitting windows

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By Sharon Wootton
Herald Columnist
It wasn't the kind of burial that Everett's Pat Maher wanted to conduct, but when six red crossbills are found on your porch, close together, it seems the thing to do.
Death-by-window is a huge cause of bird deaths. Different bird-death studies provide wildly different but staggering numbers from various causes.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates tens of millions of deaths annually are caused by natural predators and natural accidents, estimating, for instance, that millions of birds die on their first attempt to fly.
Toss in many hundreds of millions of deaths by cats, many tens of millions killed by pesticides, and several hundreds of millions birds striking windows, cars and power lines.
Death-by-windows is the topic most likely to arise, and it's one with which we are most familiar. Periodically I face a dead bird on the deck, one that has seen a reflection of trees and sky and tries to fly through them. Even stunned birds that fly away may have fatal internal injuries.
National Audubon Society has suggested options to minimize collisions:
•The easiest and most effective measure is feeder placement because many deaths are caused when a bird is startled off the feeder.
Put the feeder within 3 feet of windows means birds don't reach high speeds at the window; placing feeders more than 30 feet can lower the risk because they have longer to recognize that the image is a reflection.
Maher's feeder is about 35 feet from his house, theoretically providing enough swerve time. But if the sparrow hawk that periodically hunts in his area is chasing them, theory doesn't work.
• Drawn light-colored window shades or drapes eliminate much of the reflections. Blocking the view does not make this a popular choice, but closing them when at work or on vacation can help.
Decals, in order to be effective at reducing the mirror effect, at most must be 2 inches apart horizontally and 4 inches apart vertically, according to Audubon, not a choice most people will make.
• Bird netting stretched tightly over an entire window creates a trampolinelike effect and, according to Audubon, does not obstruct the view (I may test that out). The fear is that birds will become entangled.
Window films fails most homeowners' tests because a sheet of opaque plastic severely limits visibility and is nonstarter.
There are no easy answers to the death-by-window problem. Homes aren't going to disappear; window-laden skyscrapers aren't going to be demolished. All the more reason for doing what we can, starting with placing the feeders where bird safety comes first.
From a perspective standpoint, habitat destruction is the most significant threat to bird populations. Now that's an issue in which all of us can become involved.
On the bookshelf: It's hard to believe that 50 years have passed since Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" was published. The environmental classic, reprinted by Houghton Mifflin ($15), stands the test of time as the iconic call to arms against the deluge of chemicals in our environment.
Carson, who died a couple of years later, had to weather an all-out assault by the chemical companies after its publication but, in the end, DDT was banned and a new generation of readers help launch huge changes in laws affecting the environment.
It's a must-read because Carson's words will remind us of where we've been -- and how far we need to go -- regardless of our age.
"Whales! Strange and Wonderful" ($10) has no talking whales or singing fish, just facts, figures and great illustrations that tell the stories of Earth's whales. Author Laurence Pringle doesn't shy away from controversy, either, tackling whale hunting.
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or
Story tags » Environmental IssuesBooksBird-watching

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