Migration presents bird lovers with amazing opportunities to spot birds as they pass through, but one cannot forget the many dangers birds face on their journeys. One of the most perilous threats is a window collision. Birds can't perceive glass windows: They see through the clear surface to the other side, or see a mirrored reflection of nearby sky or trees. Either way, the can fly right into the hard glass at full speed. If they're lucky and close to the ground, the strike will stun them and they can recover on the ground before flying off. Often, though, they are more likely to be killed by it.
With this DIY activity, you can be both a champion for birds and decorate your home in a fun and creative way. After making decals using puff paint or a glue mixture, attach them to the outside of your windows.
Using patterns to break up the reflections and transparency of your windows can help prevent collisions. Be sure to stick your homemade decorations on the outside-facing side of your window in order to disrupt the perilous reflections.
Activity adapted from Audubon New York
Puff paint OR Elmer's glue, dish soap, and markers
A smooth plastic surface like a sheet protector, sandwich bag, or plastic wrap.
Stencils for tracing (optional, since you can make your own)
1. Decide on your design! You can find stencils online, at your local craft store, or make up your designs as you go. Any pattern can divert birds, but why not get in the migration spirit with bird, flower, or leaf shapes? You can also make your own stencil by tracing the outlines of birds from photographs in books or your Audubon magazine issue. If you're looking to have less showy decorations, create many small circles or flowers (each at least the size of a dime); you'll need enough to place one approximately every 2 inches across the entire window pane to break up the reflection.
2. Place your smooth plastic sheet over your stencil so you can see the stencil through the plastic.
3. Prepare your glue. Puff paint is great, if you have some on hand; it's glue and colored paint combined into one. If you don't have puff paint, you can make your own clear adhesive by pouring two tablespoons of Elmer's glue in a cup and then adding a few drops of dish soap. Stir until the soap is fully blended. (See how to make clear adhesive in this video from Audubon New York.)
4. Apply the glue onto the plastic. Try not to move your stencil around too much! If you're using puff paint, you can squeeze the paint directly from the bottle onto the plastic and use a paintbrush to smooth it out. If you're using homemade glue, use the paintbrush to paint the glue onto the sheet. In either case, you will want an even coating that is thick enough to withstand being lifted from the sheet. Make sure there are no gaps or thin, streaky sections. You may need to apply a second coat.
5. Let the glue dry. This will depend on the thickness of the glue you painted on, but will take at least two hours—and maybe up to 24 hours if you're using puff paint. The homemade glue will become transparent as it dries. When it is completely transparent and smooth, that means it is dry.
6. Only for homemade glue decals. If you used puff paint, skip this step! Once the clings are entirely dry, it is time to color! Leaving the clings on the plastic, use markers (permanent or water-based markers are both fine) to color in your creations as you wish! Make sure to color gently so as not to rip the decals.
7. Once the marker ink is dry, you can carefully remove the clings from the sheet. You will need to peel them off slowly and gently to make sure the clings do not fold over and stick to themselves. If they do, you will very likely be able to separate it, but there is a possibility of a rip or tear.
8. Place your decals close together on the outsides of your windows. For puff paint, attach the flat side to the window; for homemade glue, attach the non-colored side. Birds see even small spaces as passages, so open gaps should be no more than 4 inches wide and 2 inches high. Carefully smooth the decals on the window.
While window decals are not 100 percent effective, they can make a huge difference, particularly when combined with other measures such as turning your lights off at night, relocating feeders so they're within 3 feet of your windows or more than 30 feet away, and installing window screens.
Updated on April 7, 2020