Reducing Bird Strikes: DIY Birdsavers Project

Zen Window Curtains
Zen Window Curtains

Most of the time, adult birds are very coordinated and avoid flying into things, but the clear hard windows we put all over our buildings can cause them problems. Reflections in windows can give the appearance of a clear route to fly, especially to a bird who is trying to get away from a predator in a panic.

You get a sick feeling in your gut when you hear the thump of a bird hitting the glass hard. Bird strikes can injure and even kill birds and we’ve seen both. When you feed birds, you are drawing even more birds near to your house and its windows. As a responsible bird watcher, you do what you can to reduce strikes. With that in mind, I looked for an inexpensive solution that also doesn’t obscure our view out through the window.

I’ve tried the fairy clear (to people) window stickers sold for this purpose on some of my windows but you can’t really just use a couple of them and expect it to work and if your window is covered with enough to make a real difference, it would distort the view quite a bit. (See the butterfly stickers in the picture at the top.) I wasn’t happy with it. So now we’re trying a different approach: BirdSavers or “Zen Wind Curtains.” It’s pretty cool.

I came across this solution through American Bird Conservancy’s page on preventing window strikes where they list quite a few options. One of their suggestions is something called BirdSavers. Alternatively called “Zen Wind Curtains,” they are made of lengths of paracord that hang on the outside of your windows. The vertical lines of the hanging cord, spaced about 4” apart, are enough to make a bird think that there is not a wide enough space for clear flight, even if the reflections they see in the glass make it look inviting beyond the cords.

The folks at Acopian BirdSavers will make the blinds for you if you like, or you can make them yourself. After looking over the project directions on their site, Jim and I chose to make them ourselves.

A Huge Roll of Parachute Cord
A Huge Roll of Parachute Cord

To make them, we needed professional mil-spec paracord (parachute cord.) Apparently a lot of the paracord found locally may not be military grade cord and can shrink when it gets wet, so we purchased ours on Amazon. We got a huge 1,000 foot roll of the stuff, not because we needed all of it for this project, but because Jim thought it would be handy to have extra around for other purposes. It worked out to be about thirteen cents per foot of cord. (This Amazon page for Tough-Grid 750lb Mil-Spec Paracord offers it in various amounts from 50 feet to 1000 feet, so you don’t have to get a huge roll if you don’t need that much. We got it in Camo Green.)

Project Supplies
Project Supplies

You can use paracord for the horizontal top of the curtains, but we decided to go with BirdSavers’ suggestion of instead using vinyl J channel. Sold in ten-foot long strips, it is used for dry wall installation and was available for next to nothing at the local home improvement store. We also needed a tape measure and a pencil, a hand saw to cut the J channel to size, a drill to make the holes in the J channel, sheet metal screws and a screw driver to attach the finished curtain above the window, sharp scissors to cut the cord, a lighter to burn the ends of the cut cord so that it doesn’t fray, and a ladder.

I’m not going to provide the step-by-step details of how to make these here, as it is not my original project and the BirdSavers website already has very good directions on how to make them. But here are a few pictures to give you the basic idea. As you can see, it really isn’t a difficult project.

You cut the J channel to the width of the window. BirdSavers’ website has a chart to figure how many cords and corresponding holes for them are needed in the J channel based on the size of your window. Some of the windows in our house are a bit odd though. Instead of one large window, several of them are two narrower windows placed side-by-side with about six inches of frame wood between them. So we spaced the cords for each individual window width, skipping the cord/s that would otherwise go over the middle frame area.

Burning the Paracord Ends
Burning the Paracord Ends

You can make the cords any length that you like. BirdSavers suggests cutting them so that they hang an inch or two short of the bottom of the window. That way they swing loose at the bottom. We went with their suggestion, adding an inch to each cord for tying at the top.

Threading Paracord Through J Channel
Threading Paracord Through J Channel and Tying

After you burn the ends of the cord pieces to keep them from fraying, you push them through the holes in the J channel and tie it tightly at the top. The lip of the J channel hides the ties when they are mounted over the window. (Just make sure that you’ve drilled the holes big enough so that the cords can be threaded through them. We drilled the holes first but then found that the process of burning the ends made the cord ends a bit wider, so we had to drill them a bit bigger to accommodate that.)

Attaching the J Channel Above the Window
Attaching the J Channel Above the Window

Once you’ve got all the cords in place, attach the J channel over the outside of your window with screws so that the cords hang down the length of the glass.

Zen Window Curtains
Zen Window Curtains

We started with our dining room window just to see how we liked the look of it. It is the window closest to most of the feeders so it seemed like a good place to start. BirdSavers calls them “Zen Window Curtains” and they do have a kind of Japanese feel to them. I did initially worry that they might look like bars on the window, but they are light enough that they sway a little in the slightest breeze which is visually pleasant. We haven’t had a super windy day yet, so it’ll be interesting to see how they look when they are moving around a bit more.

We’ve decided that we like them and are going to gradually add them to other windows, starting with the larger picture windows that typically get the most bird strikes at our house. We are actually considering getting new windows sometime this year. (Our current windows were put in when the house was built in 1955 and are shabby and drafty and have separate storm windows and screens that have to be rotated twice a year.) Jim assures me that it will be no big deal to take them down to get new windows installed and then re-hang them. We might need to add another cord or two if the new windows are a little different, but again, no big deal.

Zen Window Curtains
Zen Window Curtains

If this is something that you might like to do, check out the Acopian BirdSavers website and see what you think. And if this look doesn’t work with your home’s style, check out the American Bird Conservancy’s page on window strikes to see if another option would fit your needs better.

Nancie

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