Birds, cats, and windows

The birds are chirping, the plants are sprouting, and spring is here. Lillooet is home to many beautiful birds – the Rufus Hummingbird, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Calliope Hummingbird, Northern Shrike, Pileated Woodpecker, and the Long Billed Curlew –  to name a few. Now that the weather is warming up, we welcome many of these species back into town.

birdscatswindow lewis

As we welcome our flighty friends back, what can you do to protect them?


You may be surprised to hear that researchers estimate 100 – 350 million birds per year are killed by cats (Blancher, 2013). This means 2-7 % of birds in southern Canada are killed by cats per year and predation by house cats is probably the largest human-related source of bird mortality (Blancher, 2013).  The only way to ensure your cat isn’t harming birds is by keeping them indoors. Alternatively, you may consider putting a bell on their collar in order to provide an audible alert to birds (and other small mammals and amphibians) and reduce their ability to kill.

In a study published by the British Journal of Zoology, forty-one pet cats known to bring home prey were selected to take part in the study (Ruxton et al., 2002). The study period for each cat lasted for two continuous months, and each cat wore a bell on its collar half the time. When wearing the bells, the 41 cats delivered a total of 82 mammals, 26 birds, and 10 amphibians; without the bells, they delivered 167 mammals, 48 birds, and 11 amphibians. These results showed a significant difference between killings when cats were belled-equipped and not.  Though a bell can’t ensure your cat isn’t harming any animals, it is proven to help.

 Window Glass

Birds can’t see glass. Instead, they see the reflection – possibly an inviting place to keep flying. Though cats remain the number one human-related threat to birds, collisions with glass windows is another source of fatalities. The estimated yearly death toll in Canada is 25 million birds (Ontario Nature, 2015). Canada’s Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) is working to reduce the impact of humans on birds through education, policy development, research, rescue, and rehabilitation. They suggest:

  • Placing visual markers on your windows that are no more than 10 cm apart vertically or 5 cm apart horizontally. That means, a single or a few window decals are ineffective. Instead, use appropriately spaced bird tape or bird safety film as shown on their website.

window 2 window

  • Should a bird hit your window, gently place it inside a paper bag or cardboard box firmly secured. Put it in a quiet location away from people and pets. Do not give the bird food or water. Open it every 15 minutes for 1 hour to see if it flies away. If it does not fly away or is obviously injured (broken bones), find a wildlife rehabilitator close to you for further instructions.
  • Report bird collisions into your glass windows. Help the scientific community and government agencies better understand the magnitude of the bird/window collision problem to inspire effective new technologies as solutions. Should you find a bird injured or killed by a window strike, please contribute to research by recording the incident on the FLAP Mapper, a citizen-science global mapping database


References and Resources

Birds of Lillooet, Lillooet Naturalist Society. Retrieved on 11 March 2016 from

Blancher, P. (2013). Estimated Number of Birds Killed by House Cats (Felis catus) in Canada Estimation du nombre d’oiseaux tués par les chats domestiques (Felis catus) au Canada. Avian Conservation and Ecology, 8(2), 3.

Cats and Birds, American Bird Conservancy. Retrieved on 11 March 2016 from

Fatal Light Awareness Program

Ruxton, G. D., Thomas, S., & Wright, J. W. (2002). Bells reduce predation of wildlife by domestic cats (Felis catus). Journal of Zoology, 256(1), 81-83.


by Splitrock Environmental