Your bird feeder could actually be sending our feathered friends to the grave

LONDON, Ontario — Bird-watching becomes convenient when bird feeders lure them right up to our windows. Unfortunately for our feathered friends, birds often cannot detect a window in their path, causing them to fly straight into one — potentially killing them. You can still enjoy being up close and personal with your backyard birdies, but there are ways to help save them from possible injury. A new study reports that bird feeders should be placed within 18 inches of windows to prevent potentially fatal collisions.

“Given that birds’ flight velocity prior to impact predicts the lethality of collisions with windows, we recommend that bird attractants (feeders or baths) should be placed close to windows (within 1.5 feet or 0.5 m) to reduce the available space where birds can gain speed,” the researchers say.

Why birds fly into windows

Study co-author Brendon Samuels, a PhD candidate at Western University in Ontario, says that birds crashing into windows happens often all over the world. “But the frequency and severity of collisions seem to be underestimated by the public, especially at residential settings. One reason is that collisions happen suddenly and are difficult for people to observe directly. When birds fly away afterwards, it is unclear what ultimately happens to them,” he explains in a statement.

“Our findings highlight how common collisions can be in residential settings, especially where there are bird attractants like feeders,” he adds.

Along with their warming tunes and chirpy personalities, birds are a vital part of the ecosystem. However, these creatures are under threat. Windows reflect sky, clouds and trees. Millions of birds in the U.S. fly into windows each year, with around a third dying.

Audio and video recordings in a residential backyard now provide the first glimpse of what happens in the moments leading up to impact. An analysis of 29 collisions and nine near-misses showed flight velocity and angle of approach both predicted outcomes following a crash, authors of the study say.

Birds may be injured after flying towards a feeder and crashing into windows
Birds may be injured after flying towards a feeder and crashing into windows, like this Cardinal. (Credit: Brendon Samuels)

Faster flights at angles of approach closer to perpendicular were most hazardous. Only a small proportion resulted in an immediate fatality and were detected by occupants. Most were followed by the bird flying away without leaving a trace. It is believed some may suffer injuries and later die far from the site.

This suggests the extent of collisions may be vastly underestimated by traditional survey methods. Surveys have focused mostly on larger structures such as office blocks. Yet residential buildings are the most numerous with windows. They represent the greatest cumulative threat.

New housing developments are being prioritized in many parts of the world. The appetite for large glass windows and railings continues to grow. Garden bird feeding has gained in popularity over the pandemic, drawing more birds into high-risk settings.

How to keep birds from potentially deadly collisions

The study shows that collisions occurred nearly as frequently with smaller windows as with large glass doors. “Given birds’ flight velocity prior to impact predicts the lethality of collisions with windows, we recommend bird feeders or baths should be placed within 1.5 feet to reduce the available space where birds can gain speed,” says Samuels.

New buildings can be designed based on practices that limit risk of bird-window collisions. Similarly, existing building windows, such as those on homes, can be retrofitted using simple materials to add visual markers to the exterior of the glass.

“An important direction for future research is to characterize how birds orient their eyes to detect and avoid collisions with windows, so collision deterrents can be designed optimally to match bird vision,” says Samuels. “This study documented birds approaching windows from variable angles. Designs and tests of collision prevention technologies should take this into account.”

The study is published in the journal PeerJ.

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report. 

Spanish version of this article: Su comedero podría estar enviando a nuestros amigos emplumados a la tumba


  1. Silhouettes of birds can be purchased, probably through the Audubon Society or Duncraft, that you adhere to the windows near your feeders. These can be seen by the birds but are transparent for us indoors.
    These signal to the birds that the window is there.

  2. I have my feeders, song bird feeders and finch feeders hanging from 8ft shepherd hooks in the middle of my yard…plus other things I put out in cat or dog dishes on the table like suet or berries..they also love to sit in my rose bushes…where I live kids love to shoot birds with bb g*ns… disgusting habit daddy taught them for practicing for bagging 40 quail or dove…I have a pair of kingbirds that make their nest on my telephone pole every year, I sit in my yard and they will come to eat and drink even when my dogs are out..

  3. There’s a simple solution for home owners. They’re available on Amazon. Anti Bird Strike Electromagnetic Stickers to be applied on your windows. They also make it in a liquid pen. Since placing mine, Bird strikes have reduced by at least95%.

  4. When I was in high school we had a walk bridge that went over a small Creek in between the two buildings at the high school. Because there was glass on both sides and there was a lot of trees around the birds used to think they could fly right through. The carnage underneath the windows was horrible. The school newspaper did an article and took pictures of all the birds under the windows. That led to the student council getting involved. On any given day you could walk down underneath the bridge and see 15 to 20 dead birds laying on the ground. The student council finally put big yellow dots on the windows. There were still some fatalities but not as many.

    1. A better idea would be not to place the feeder directly in front of a window. Place them about 30 degrees off from the windows.

      That reduced my impacts substantially. If a home owner has cats, the impact noise cues the cat in on a pilot down, and the body is often not recoverable.

      I was able to rescue one disoriented pilot. I held if for a few minutes, and then set it on a branch next to the feeder. It slowly, over the course of an hour, began making sense of its surroundings, and eventually flew off, explained the incident to its flight wing, and I never had another impact after that last fall. The winter birds seem to have less impacts, and that may be due to the snow reflection from the ground. They also may be more intelligent, plan ahead and thus plan their flight paths more accurately with less flying by the seat of their pants.

  5. EDIT PLEASE: Please fix your first paragraph to say that they “should NOT” be placed further, beyond, or they should be “within 18 inches”, or placed “no further than” 18 in, to prevent high velocity collisions Etc.It is *incorrectly* written (showing edit) as “A new study reports that bird feeders should (strike: not) be placed within 18 inches of windows to prevent potentially fatal collisions.”

  6. When writing an article about a subject, you should ensure that you fully comprehend the content. This would save the embarrassment of offering advice in the beginning which is directly contradictory to the actual study being quoted at the end.

  7. Your article contradicts itself. The opening paragraph states that feeders should NOT be placed within 18” of windows and then much later states that feeders SHOULD be placed within 1.5 feet of windows. The latter statement is correct, but sadly, the opening paragraph is what most people will read and they may never get to the correct information. Please edit the article or you are simply directing people to do what they should not do and thereby are contributing to the problem. Thank you.

  8. Keeping your feeders on the window or about 8inches from the window keeps birds from flying into windows because they see something is there and don’t assume the window is a through-way. Decals work when you have your feeders out in the yard and the birds once again know that your window is not a through-way. Wild Birds Unlimited can help you with these questions and come up with a solution for your yard.

  9. I put a cut out of a song bird on the picture window and the robin would not make a nest near it until I took it down. Decals on a window help prevent collision.

  10. When I was working as a school custodian in Westchester county NY. During the summer we just cleaned the windows that faced the woods. Then we saw 2 birds fly into the windows they tried to avoid the windows but unfortunately they didn’t make it.

  11. I have 2 feeders above the porch railing under a covered porch. I work from home and can watch them while working. The birds are smart. One will tap on the window when the feeders are empty. My husband witnessed this and asked did that bird just try to get our attention? I went out and the feeders were low. One day a little wren was frantically flapping its wings in the window. I was like wow you must be hungry. Another wren had gotten its head caught in one of the feeder holes and I was able to free it. I keep them full now so no caught heads or having to tap for food. I now have a bird identifier book, a bird bath, and will plant bird friendly plants in the bed in front of the porch this spring. Our house had nothing but starlings when we first moved in, now we have all different kinds, even a red headed woodpecker who makes a weekly visit for a fill up.

  12. Proofread your article… should it be closer than 18 inches or further than 18 inches? The article contradicts itself within the first few paragraphs and immediately makes it all unreadable.

  13. I don’t think it’s about the windows or the cats. Bird feeders invite an extensive amounts of squirrels, rats, mice and even bears if you live in the country. Do people realize how toxic bird feces is. Don’t walk your dog near a bird feeder location.
    Pigeon feces is extremely toxic.
    Some, but not all UV material works. If it has a reflective color, birds notice the reflection of the trees and it can actually intice them to fly towards the window. After you install it, go outside and double check it doesn’t reflect the surroundings.
    Most importantly if you do feed birds, please, clean them frequently so mold doesn’t grow in the feeder.

  14. I have my 3 bird feeders hanging on a bird feeder pole . Well away from the living room picture window.i use to hanging a feeder by the picture window.had it hanging from the softlift vent.had a black bear came at night tearing it down.luckilly he did not break the picture I keep the feeders in at night..!!.

  15. My feeders are less than 18 inches from my windows, AND the windows have screens. In 30+ years, I’ve never found a dead bird below a window. Even if a bird hit the screen, it would bounce off like it hit a trampoline.

    1. It’s a great thing you have not had a dead bird that would ruin the pleasure in watching them but also which you may have to pick up, but, like the article states they can and DO fly away to die later due to an injury they got from flying into a feeder by someone window. I love watching birds and I appreciate this article telling how to prevent fatalities in song bird community.

      1. Your right and most people don’t even realize that It happened because the bird flies off and dies in the woods or brush anywhere they can hide in peace.I use decals and made some reflectors that move in the wind and moved my feeder far away from my windows problem solved.

  16. Wheb birds often kept flying into my bedroom window, I called the local County Nature Center for advice. They mailed me the shape of a hawk to reproduce & stick on the window. The night hawk is the natural predator of these local birds.
    This was 100% successful: no more violent bird crash-and-die anymore.
    Also, keep a window NOT crystal clear/ clean helps.

    1. yeah, so what todo when it’s a hawk? I’ve had that happen. My solution worked perfectly – do nothing and chalk it up to a Darwin moment.

  17. Wheb virds jeot fkying into my vesriom window, I called rhe local County Nature Center for advice. They mailed me the shape of a hawk to reproduce & stick on the window. The night hawk is the natural predator of these local birds.
    This was 100% successful: no more violent bird crashes & dying anymore.
    Also, keep a window NOT crystal clear/ clean helps !

  18. Cats are a far bigger problem. Check the statistics, they kill over a billion birds a year in the USA. Keep your cats in the house. They are an invasive predatory species. Worse than the Pythons in Florida.

    1. the article contradicts itself by first stating that moving the feeders farther away reduces their velocity. Then later states, no, the feeders should be closer, within 18″. The birds will slow down as they approach, and if startled will be too close to get to cruising speed.
      The Audubon Society has recommended a feeder should be within 3′ or more than 30′ away.

      1. Within 3 feet and more than 30 feet sounds like a good option. I have my feeder pole about 10 ft from my bedroom window but at an angle where the birds’ flight path is not in a direct path with my window but I can still watch them from my bed. There’s a privacy fence 8ft to the other side of the feeder so it’s sort of like the feeder is in a corridor with woods all around and I believe that is why I have never had an incident at my window but I have considered moving it much closer to my window so I can scare the squirrel away when I catch him eating all the suet. LOL!

        Btw, I don’t know if anyone else knows about this but I found a website the other day for Lifelong Feeders which is an honest to goodness critter proof suet feeder. It looks pretty awesome. It’s sort of expensive (for me anyway) but it seems like it would definitely be worth it in the long run as long as you secured it so the critters wouldn’t steal it which has happened to a couple of my feeders. I’ve seen feeders almost as expensive that were nowhere near as practical nor were they squirrel and raccoons proof but this one is! This lifelong feeder is made from stainless steel and aluminum. I am in no way affiliated with this product. I just happened to stumble upon it and thought it was quite impressive after losing another battle with the squirrels. LOL! I won’t put a link here but anyone can Google “Lifelong Feeders” and check it out if they’re interested.

        Anyway, thanks for mentioning the recommended placement of the bird feeder. Have a great day and happy birding! 🐦😃

      1. You smell that stink ? Ewe
        Obviously the mouth is as full of Bird Shoot as the brain
        Thank you for letting all know
        How sad & pathetically hopeless you have become…
        Poor thing

  19. What about the bird feeders that attach to the glass windows. Are they safe?
    Most of my My bird feeders are at list 8′ away from the house. I can not Relocate them as that is where my trees are.
    Biggest problem is all the pigeons eat the bird seeds.

    1. the article mistates the correct distance: later in the article they say put the feeder within 18″ of the window. The Audubon Society recommends less than 3′ or more than 30′ away.

    2. You may want to try a metal shepherds hook. That way you can put it any where you want and you don’t have to hang it in a tree. Good luck!

  20. Imma go and try to find some film. A wood pecker has been coming to my bedroom tree and hitting the window some times. I just want ALL of our animals to be safe….. Seeing as though we are invading their homes.

    1. You can buy stick-on BIRD DETERRENT FILM DECALS from stores like Wild Birds Unlimited. Probably Audubon web site has them, too.They are easy to apply (peel-and-stick) and have kept the birds from flying into my large glass windows completely! They do have to be replaced every year or couple of years, since they do cease to be effective.

    2. I wish the article mentioned this, but a simple mesh window screen will also serve as a deterrent to bird window collisions.

      1. Suggest you check the Urban Dictionary for words that baffle you…it is immensely helpful for the uninitiated. You can then read online posts/texts without feeling lost

      2. I’m fairly certain you know EXACTLY what it means. You’re just trying to be a grammar snob. Go work on your own problems.
        That said, Imma go find something better to do than wasting my time shutting down internet trolls.

    1. Are you talking about wind turbines? It true some poorly placed turbines do unfortunately kill mostly raptors. Much has been done to reduce collisions. At time of major migration where flight patterns are well known certain turbines are shut down for periods for better survival rates. The numbers pale in comparison to cats and habitat loss. Obviously you were trying to bash wind power but as is also obvious you don’t know shit from applesauce about either issue

  21. I have 2 feeders on one stand that is less than 6″from my sunroom window and under my roof cover in the shade. I have not had any collision with the window or another bird and there are many birds vying for spots at the feeders. They are also undercover from the rain, snow and birds of prey.

    1. that is because the feeders are close to the window. They slow down as they approach the window, and if startled away from it will not have gained enough speed to kill itself.
      The Audubon Society recommends feeders be less than 3′ or more than 30′ from a window. Placing them within 18″ is even better.

  22. Audubon suggested putting christmas ribbon ( not fabric) that will wave/move with a breeze.
    It seems decals would also help.

      1. Think how many birds are killed by little boys with bb guns. Opie on Mayberry killed a mama bird. On one episode

  23. I put lace curtains up which stop collisions 100% from occurring. Saving their lives is of utmost importance, wedecorate our windows with these wonderful creatures in mind. There are also lovely translucent plastic window coverings.

  24. I have actually found that if you place your bird feeder several inches from your window and put a large round base on it the bird’s don’t fly into the window anymore. When I fed them about 8 feet away they flew into the window the wrong way .I think something spooked them and they just took off in the wrong direction.

  25. Can you tell us how many birds of prey attacks you witnessed while doing your study because if bird feeders are out in the open they become a feeding table for. B,o,p bird feeders should be placed were the birds can get to cover quickly so place feeders close to trees bushes and edges

    1. Raptors have been carrying off small pets here. It is true that feeders out in the open give the taptors a clear view of smaller birds to kill. I have d.seen it myself. They also carry off my little squirrels

  26. Bird experts should design some type of film tcover windows so the birds don’t see a glare or the reflection of the clouds, sky or themselves, etc.

    1. I’ve read that since birds are able to see in the UV range that UV film can help reduce collisions. Even if it looks reflective to us, the birds are able to see it and avoid it.

      1. UV film does make a difference, esp for our pet parrots. After a particularly bad collision indoors following a spook from a neighbor’s cat stalking them from outside their window, we ordered tint film. Mirrored on the east side of the house, and static cling with a design on the sliding glass door. The static cling film is great, esp if you rent, as it can be easily removed with no residue.

      2. Sure, make the windows reflective so that that family of five down the street that you don’t like can be blinded by it the next time they drive by. With any luck, they’ll crash right into your house.

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