Why Do Cardinals Fly Into Windows? (And How to Prevent It)

Cardinals have a habit of flying into windows, particularly during their breeding season.

But window strikes can occur any time, and when they do, it can sadly be fatal for these wild birds.

We’re going to explain in-depth the reasons for cardinal window collisions, as well as how to prevent them. But if you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick summary:

  • Cardinals may mistake their reflection in the window as a rival bird, leading to window strikes.
  • Crystal clear windows can create an optical illusion that there’s more open space to fly into.
  • Effective methods to prevent window strikes include window decals, reducing reflective materials, and simply relocating your cardinal bird feeder.

Why Do Cardinals Fly Into Windows?

Territorial Nature

Cardinals are known for their territorial behavior, particularly during the breeding season. They can become quite aggressive when they perceive another bird as a threat to their domain.

When cardinals are outside your window, they may mistake their reflection for an intruder. As a result, they may repeatedly fly towards the window in an attempt to fend off the perceived threat.

Male cardinals, in particular, are more likely to exhibit this territorial behavior during the breeding season.

Read Next: What Color Attracts Cardinals

Breeding Season Aggressiveness

Breeding season typically amplifies the territorial behavior of cardinals.

During this time, male cardinals become more aggressive in protecting their mates and nesting areas. This aggressive behavior may lead the cardinals to attack their own reflections, which they mistakenly view as rival birds vying for their mate and territory.

This also explains why you’re more likely to see cardinals continually flying into windows during the breeding season.

Reflection Perception

The way cardinals perceive reflections plays a role in their behavior around windows. Because they have difficulty seeing clear glass, your window may appear to them as an open space or sky.

This is especially true if your windows don’t have any decals or anything to distract from the shiny, reflective surface.

Confusion and Disorientation

Cardinals, like other migratory birds, can experience exhaustion, hunger, and disorientation on their long journeys.

There are times when cardinals may eat fermented berries, causing impaired vision. And this can indirectly contribute to them flying into windows.

Moreover, factors like bright lights or confusing window patterns can create confusion, increasing the likelihood of window strikes.

Why Windows Are a Problem for Cardinals

Quite simply, window strikes can kill cardinals and other birds.

Researchers estimate that window strikes claim the lives of up to 1 billion birds every year in the U.S. alone.

Although window strikes may not be fatal, cardinals can still sustain minor injuries, particularly to their beaks.

If possible, try to minimize the likelihood of these accidents in your home or backyard to protect cardinals from potential harm.

Urban Areas and Window Attacks

In urban environments, you might notice cardinals frequently flying into windows. One reason for this is the fact that urban areas tend to have significant amounts of artificial lighting.

Bright lights can be highly disorienting or distracting to cardinals.

Cardinals may also attack the mirrors on parked cars for the same reasons that they attack windows—the reflective surface shows them what they think is a rival bird.

How to Prevent Window Strikes

To help cardinals avoid these collisions, consider taking steps to make your windows more visible and less reflective, such as using decals or adjusting lighting around windows.

By doing so, you can create a safer environment for these beautiful birds and protect them from unnecessary harm.

Physical Barriers

One effective way to prevent cardinals from flying into windows is by using physical barriers. Physical barriers like blinds, curtains, and netting can help obstruct the views and reflections that attract cardinals to windows.

Positioning these barriers on the inside or outside of your window, you can create a visual disturbance that deters cardinals from colliding with the glass or attacking their reflections.

Decals and Screens

Another method to stop cardinals from attacking windows is through the strategic placement of decals and screens.

Decals and screens can break up reflections and make it more difficult for cardinals to see the illusions that lead to window collisions.

Consider applying decals in vertical stripes or using patterned screens to cover the windows.

These visual obstructions will not only protect the birds but also maintain the aesthetic appeal of your home.

External Shutters and Sun Shades

External shutters, sun shades, and awnings can be instrumental in preventing window collisions for cardinals.

These external fixtures can block or reduce reflections and glare, making it harder for cardinals to mistake the window for open space.

Furthermore, since they are usually adjustable, you can regulate their deployment based on the time of day and intensity of sunlight.

This helps prevent cardinals from flying into windows without compromising your home’s natural lighting.

Relocating Bird Feeders

Simply moving your bird feeders that the cardinals come to can help reduce the incidence of window strikes.

It’s suggested to move your bird feeders to one of two locations: 3 feet or 30 feet away from the windows.

That is, if you want your bird feeders close to the window so that you can easily see them feeding, make sure there’s no more than 3 feet’s distance between the window and the feeder.

That way, a cardinal that sees its reflection in the window won’t gain enough speed to cause a fatality if it strikes.

Otherwise, keep the feeder more then 30 feet away from windows to ensure that the birds don’t get confused by seeing their reflections at all.

Related Reading: What Do Cardinals Eat?

Non-Reflective Surfaces

When it comes to preventing cardinals from flying into windows, one effective method is the use of non-reflective surfaces.

By eliminating or reducing reflections, you can discourage birds from attacking their own image, thinking it’s another bird invading their territory.

If you have seen cardinals flying into car windows, consider parking your vehicle in a shaded area or using sunshades for the car windows. This can help minimize the reflections that attract these birds.

For your home or office windows, consider applying non-reflective film, decals, or stickers designed specifically for bird prevention. These options reduce the reflection that might confuse cardinals and cause them to fly into the clear glass.

Besides windows, other everyday items can unintentionally create reflective surfaces that confuse birds, such as mirrors, grocery bags, or other shiny objects.

If you notice cardinals attacking these objects, try removing them from outdoor spaces or covering them with non-reflective materials.

For instance, you can drape a cloth over a mirror or put away shiny grocery bags instead of leaving them outside.

With a few simple adjustments, you can make your home and yard safer for cardinals and other birds, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do birds repeatedly hit windows?

Birds, including cardinals, may repeatedly hit windows for a few reasons. One reason is that they can be attacking their reflections, thinking another bird is invading their territory.

Another reason may be that they perceive the window as open space due to its clarity.

Lastly, if they have recently consumed fermented berries, they may become disoriented and unable to see the window properly.

How can I deter cardinals from approaching my car?

If cardinals are approaching your car, it could be due to the reflective surfaces, such as windows or mirrors, that they perceive as threats.

To deter the birds, try covering your car windows or mirrors with non-reflective material when it’s parked.

You can also use visual deterrents, like reflective tape or hanging items that move with the wind, to discourage birds from approaching your vehicle.

What causes birds to peck at windows?

Birds, like cardinals, may peck at windows due to their territorial nature. When they see their reflection in the window, they may interpret it as a rival bird and try to defend their territory by pecking at the “intruder.”

This is especially common during the breeding season when birds are more aggressive and protective.

How can I prevent birds from flying into my windows?

There are several ways to prevent birds from flying into windows:

  1. Use window films that obstruct their view while still allowing light to enter.
  2. Install screens or shading systems that lessen reflections and provide a barrier between the bird and the window.
  3. Scare birds away with visual deterrents, such as reflecting tape or hanging items that move with the wind.
  4. Tape your windows with a grid pattern, which can help birds perceive the surface as an obstacle.
  5. Attach fine-mesh netting over your windows, which can cushion the impact if a bird does fly into them.

Why do some birds repeatedly visit the same house?

Birds often return to the same location for various reasons, such as finding a reliable food source, a safe nesting spot, or suitable shelter.

If a bird keeps coming back to your house, it’s likely that it has found something in the area that meets its needs.

This behavior is especially common during the breeding season when a bird is trying to establish and defend its territory.

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