How Should I Care for a Stunned Bird After It Flies Into a Window?

Bird flying toward window on sunny day

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Finding a bird stunned after striking a window can be a startling and heartbreaking experience. The National Audubon Society calls window collisions one of the leading direct human causes of bird mortality, killing between 365 million and a billion annually. About 44% of those fatalities are believed to be caused by homes and other one- to three-story buildings.

The impact usually stuns the bird, and half the time, results in its death either because it's injured or too stunned to defend itself against predators. However, a little love, care, and protection could greatly up its chances of survival. Here’s what you need to know to give a stunned bird the best chance at recovery.

Observe the Bird

Often, stunned birds with no physical injuries can recover quickly from window collisions. The best you can do is provide a watchful eye to ensure they don't fall prey to cats or other predators. If the bird remains inactive after five minutes or so, pick it up gently (gloves optional), keeping it upright so it can still breathe.


Never approach or try to handle raptors or other birds of prey. Instead, contact a local wildlife department or a rehabilitation center immediately.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says if the wings are unbroken and eyes seem normal, you can try putting it on a branch. If it can perch on its own, it probably doesn't need assistance.

If it has noticeable injuries, it should be seen by a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible. The Cornell Lab says broken bones "usually need proper attention within minutes or hours to heal properly without surgery."

Carefully Place the Bird in a Ventilated Box

Young bird sitting on a towel in a shoebox

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If it doesn't have noticeable injuries but is too stunned to perch on a branch, you can help protect the bird by placing it in a dark box with a lid. Shoeboxes work great for this. Line the box with paper towels or a soft cloth for comfort, and poke holes in it large enough to provide plenty of ventilation. It might also be a good idea to always keep one handy in your home.

Carefully place the bird in the box and put it in a dark, quiet area away from pets and kids. If it's cold out, take it inside (but avoid exposing it to too much heat). "The darkness will calm the bird while it revives," the Cornell Lab of Ornithology says. It should recover within a few minutes if it isn't seriously injured. Do not attempt to feed it or give it water.

Release the Bird—Or Contact Wildlife Rehab

After about 15 minutes, take the box outside and as far away as possible from your home and other structures. Open the box to allow the bird to fly out. If it doesn't, close the box back up and open it every 15 minutes until the bird is strong enough to achieve takeoff.

If the bird is still in a vegetative state after about two hours or its condition seems to be getting worse, transport it to your local licensed bird or wildlife rehabilitation center.

How to Protect Birds from Window Collisions

The best way to prevent a sad incident like this from happening is to make sure your space is as bird-friendly as possible. Make a difference in the lives of birds in your region and follow these steps to collision-proof your home.

Be Strategic With Your Bird Feeder Placement

Bird feeder hanging in tree with shed in background

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Bird feeders and baths are safest when they're either right up against your house or far away from it. When a feeder is within three feet of a window, birds aren't likely to hurt themselves because they aren't flying at high speeds.

A better option, however, might be to place feeders and baths more than 30 feet from glass.

Turn Lights Out at Night

Although having lights on at night does help reduce reflection in windows, lights are generally believed to be more harmful than they are helpful.

Large, glass-covered buildings around the country have begun turning off their lights at night to avoid disorienting birds who seem to be attracted to it—especially during the migratory season. You can do the same at home.

Apply Window Decals

Corporate building with anti-collision stickers on windows

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The American Bird Conservancy recommends decorating windows with stripes and patterns so birds can better see them. You can do this with decals or opaque, window-friendly tape or with nontoxic, rain-proof temporary paint.

ABC says the lines should be at leas 1/8 inches wide and spaced two inches apart. You should be able to see the stripes from 10 feet away.

Keep Curtains Drawn

If you have curtains, drapes, blinds, and other window coverings, try to keep them drawn whenever possible. This reduces the reflection in the window—especially if they're backed with a bright color.

Install Netting Over Windows

ABC also recommends installing lightweight netting or screens over windows to catch birds before they hit the glass.

Brands like the Bird Screen Company and Acopian BirdSavers make suction cup-backed screens specifically for this purpose, but any sort of netting will do as long as it sticks out several inches from the window.

View Article Sources
  1. "Reducing collisions with glass." National Audubon Society.

  2. Loss, Scott R., Tom Will, Sara S. Loss, and Peter P. Marra. "Bird–building collisions in the United States: Estimates of annual mortality and species vulnerability." Ornithological Applications. 2014.

  3. "Make your windows bird-safe." The Humane Society of the United States.

  4. "Why Birds Hit Windows—And How You Can Help Prevent It." Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2017.

  5. "You Can Save Birds From Flying Into Windows!" American Bird Conservancy. 2017.

  6. "How to Keep Birds From Hitting Windows." American Bird Conservancy.