How to Stop Birds Attacking Windows (Why Do Robins Knock on Glass?)

Updated on May 10, 2018
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Friends say I have "green-fingers" and the garden certainly seems to respond to my efforts. I enjoy observing wildlife and being outdoors.

A European Robin sings to mark its territory and also to attract a mate.
A European Robin sings to mark its territory and also to attract a mate. | Source

Unusual Aggressive Bird Pecking Behavior

Have you ever been sitting quietly at home when a bird starts to attack your window? A robin has recently started using my living room window as a target. The attacks on the glass pane can last from 10 to 20 minutes each and may happen several times a day.

If you’ve never seen this type of bird behavior, the video below shows a robin repeatedly throwing itself against window in the same manner as the one in my garden. This aggressive behavior can last for several weeks.

Some birds, for example both American and European robins, are very territorial. These bird-window attacks take place most often in spring (the breeding season) and in the fall (when birds are newly arrived on migration from another country). Scientists believe that the birds attack their reflection in the glass thinking it is a rival bird.

Robin Attacking Window

Stop Birds Hitting Your Windows

Tip
Comment
Leave window dirty or cover it over.
Stops light entering your room.
Use decals to break up bird's reflection.
Good for children's bedrooms
Wind chimes or water sprinker as distraction.
Can be annoying for you too.
Use shiny objects (old CDs etc) to distract.
Not very effective.
Use flurescent marker pen grid (highlighters).
Recommended by Texas Parks and Wildlife Service
Use a stick-on window deflector.
Easy to use.
Use cut-out of predator to frighten birds.
Reduces but not completely stop attacking behavior.
These methods are all described in more detail in this article.
The European Robin has little fear of humans and their homes.
The European Robin has little fear of humans and their homes. | Source

Stop Pecking by Removing Reflections

Birds may not realize that there is glass in your window opening. If it is really clean they fly towards it not expecting to have their route blocked. These are usually one-off crashes and a bird will learn not to repeat the experience. However, if the bird is flying into your window because of the reflection then it will aggressively attack the image repeatedly as it attempts t see off the "intruder".

If you want to change this behavior then you need to remove the causal trigger. You need to block the images that garden birds are reacting to. Window reflections happen when a pane is clean and daylight conditions are right for mirror-like images to occur. Onw way to deal with this problem would be to leave windows dirty or boarded over, but this would be extreme.

Some (slightly) better suggestions are given in the video below. The suggestions given include using window decals or wind-chimes or water sprinkler to distract the birds. However, the best and most effective solution is given towards the end of this article.

How to Stop Birds From Attacking Windows

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An American Robin enjoys a berry feast.
An American Robin enjoys a berry feast. | Source

Remove Bird's Mirror-Like Self-Reflections

The advice given by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a British wildlife charity) to prevent birds attacking panes of glass is to cover the outside of targeted windows with non-reflective cellophane. The problem with this is that wind and rain will quickly make the cellophane come adrift and ineffective.

Their alternative suggestion is to cover the inside of affected windows with newspaper or lots of decals. Or you could leave curtains and blinds drawn to make the glass non-reflective. However, there’s a huge disadvantage to these solutions. The birds may stop pecking your window, but you will no longer be able to enjoy looking out through it.

You could use a medium-weight plastic painter's drop cloth instead. The cloudy plastic will allow you to see out and let a reasonable amount of light enter, but will eliminate the bird’s reflections. The idea is to attach the plastic sheet to the top of the outside of your window and leave it to hang loosely. Any movement in the sheet caused by breezes will help to scare away the bird.

I have found that a Bird's Eye View window deflector works well. It breaks up the clear view of the glass for birds and stops them striking at their reflection. At the same time it's small enough not to obstruct your view of the outside. It's also easy to remove from the window if you should want to.

The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) perched on a branch.
The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) perched on a branch. | Source

Shiny Decoy Objects as Distraction

Another technique that can work is to use decoy objects. Shiny items like old CDs or computer disks can be hung on pieces of string to distract the bird. Shiny helium balloons can be hung from nearby trees or from an overhanging gutter. When attacked, a balloon or a CD reacts in a way not expected by the bird and so can act as a deterrent to its aggressive behavior.

Use Cut-Out Shapes to Frighten Attacking Birds

Another method to reduce persistent pecking behavior is to paste a silhouette of a predator bird onto the glass. In the UK, the top predator species is a hawk and so this bird’s shape is often used, but other cut-outs can be used.

RSPB members have used outlines like a crescent moon or a colored plastic star and say these have deterred would-be peckers. The aggressive behavior is reduced, but not totally stopped. The best method for stopping birds hitting windows is that recommended by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Service and is described below.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Service recommends drawing a grid on your window with florescent highlighters.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Service recommends drawing a grid on your window with florescent highlighters. | Source

Top Tip From Texas Parks and Wildlife Service

The best solution I’ve found to this problem is one recommended by Texas Parks and Wildlife Service. It involves drawing grid lines on your windows using fluorescent marker pens (highlighters). It’s cheap and easy to do. It can be done from inside your property so there’s no need to worry about climbing ladders. Best of all, it works!

The pigment in the highlighters can be seen by birds but is difficult for humans to see, so it doesn’t interfere with your view out of the window too much. Drawing a grid of lines with a fluorescent marker breaks up a bird’s reflection, so the repetitive pecking behavior stops. The effect is virtually instant. I use Sharpie Tank Highlighter Marker Pens. Their tanks contain enough ink to draw a grid over the whole window and their quick-drying ink means that smudging is minimized.

The video below was made by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Service and demonstrates the difference in bird behavior between a marked window and an unmarked one. It is remarkable the difference a few highlighter lines can make.

How to Keep Birds From Hitting Your Windows

Summary of Texas Parks and Wildlife Service Method

1. Clean the inside of your windows using a propriety glass cleaner.

2. Next, use a highlighter to draw a grid of lines on the inside of the affected window. (This is the one that the bird is using for its target practice.)

3. The horizontal lines should be less than 2” (5 cm) apart. The vertical lines need to be no more than 4” (10cm) apart.

4. You will need to reapply the grid every week or so as daylight will gradually fade the florescent ink.

5. That’s it. The job is done. Problem Solved!

6. Now you can sit back and enjoy birdwatching without the head-banging tactics.

An American Robin eating a worm.
An American Robin eating a worm. | Source

Comments

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  • RedElf profile image

    RedElf 5 weeks ago from Canada

    Every once in a while a nuthatch will smack into the front window - usually during migration in the late spring. Unfortunately, they usually don't survive. We have been told it's because the poor critter didn't see the glass. I have never seen anything like the behavior of your robins and bluebirds though, I bet the grid would probably fix the "fly-through" problem as well. Nifty idea - and simple - like all the best ideas. Thanks for the great info.

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

    Fascinating! I've never had my windows attacked like that but we have had birds fly straight into them, not realising there was an obstacle, mostly blue tits and finches.

    The highlighter solution is a clever one.

    Lovely photos too!

    Ann

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