What’s This Post About?
Enjoying the view of vibrant wild birds fluttering from feeder to feeder and hovering over any open space is one of the favorite activities of enthusiastic birders.
Sitting around and seeing a bird galore on the other side of their windows has become a daily habit for some. Those windows, however, can be a hazard for birds.
As beautiful as they are, northern cardinals can prove to be pests sometimes, pecking on windows on purpose.
Intentional or not, cardinals pecking or crashing into your windows is not the best sight. The constant worry of looking out for the birds or tending to injured ones can be quite a hassle.
There are multiple steps you can take to keep cardinals away from pecking on windows. You can cover your windows with curtains or rub them with soap or oil. External shades, tapes, placing decoys, or feather guards can also be effective.
Why Do Cardinals Attack Your Windows?
When a bird chooses a nesting place, the region around it becomes its territory.
Cardinals are highly territorial birds. When they see a reflection in the window or other shiny surface, they mistake it for a competitor bird. Flying into or pecking at windows is them attacking the reflection to chase the intruder away.
This territorial nature is most dominant during the breeding season. The birds are looking for a place to nest and feed their brood.
Seeing more cardinals within their territory means they will be competing for the exact locations or feed.
Another reason why a bird may bump into your window is because of the scenery it reflects. When the bird looks at the window, all it sees are more trees and an open sky. They fly, thinking that they are following an unobstructed flight path. This happens during the daytime.
Cardinals may still attack or peck at your windows during nighttime. This is common with many birds as they are lured towards the lighted windows.
This will happen especially during foggy conditions where the bird sees the light as a flight path.
15 Steps to Keep Cardinals Away
You'll never forget the «thud» of a cardinal striking glass once you've heard it.
While the crash can be both accidental and intentional, in the end, that doesn’t matter. To see these magnificent creatures lying helpless on the window sill is one of the most appalling sights.
The good news is that you can do a few basic things to decrease the threat your home’s windows pose to birds.
Since you do not want to see cardinals getting harmed, you can instead try these steps to keep them away without restraining or chasing them physically.
1. Cover Your Windows
The easiest step you can take is covering your windows. All you have to do is pull down the blinds or curtains. This may seem inconvenient if you are used to having natural sunlight in your home.
Cardinals often fly around for feed in the late afternoons. The light is way too harsh around that time anyway.
2. Create A Physical Barrier
Many people install outdoor shutters that create a barrier between the bird and the window. You can easily open the shutter in the evening or morning. It will also help in keeping your house cool.
Mount fine-mesh netting in a robust frame and use shelf brackets to keep the frame a couple of inches away from the window to function as a barrier. Some people use this as a mosquito repellant.
3. Use External Shades
Installing external shades or awnings is also a very low cost and low maintenance step. All it requires is occasional dusting, and you are sorted.
4. Move Your Feeders
When placing bird feeders near windows, use the 3 or 30-feet rule.
The placement of your feeders is more important than you may think. A bird feeder situated between 3 and 30 feet from a window can allow a bird flying from the feeder to gain enough speed to smash into the glass and inflict significant harm.
Ideally, we recommend setting a feeder closer than 3-feet away.
By bringing the feeders closer together, the cardinal will be less likely to fly into a window at high speed, reducing the severity of the crash. It also provides excellent opportunities for bird viewing.
5. Change The Location of Houseplants
What people don’t realize is that indoor plants act as an attraction for cardinals who look for plants to perch on after feeding.
They also consider it as a hiding place in case of possible threats of predation. They do not realize that there is a transparent barrier between them and the plant.
House plants are often kept near the windows for optimum sunlight. What you can do is:
6. Distort the Reflections
To reduce the reflections that birds see in windows,
install bird screens
silhouette stickers or,
use plastic wrap
The reflections the cardinals see through your window are one of the main causes of the collision.
All you need to do is try and distort the reflection. You can do this by placing decorative items in front of the window sill.
You can hang pieces of aluminum foil outside the window. Birds hate the feel of aluminum under the beaks, and the reflection from it hurts the eyes.
7. Soap/Oil Your Windows
You can also break up the reflection of your windows by applying soap or vegetable oil to them. This is a very inexpensive and temporary method of prevention.
Some people even recommend not cleaning the windows for a couple of days. The cleaner the windows, the more reflective they are.
While this won’t earn you any housekeeping points, it will solve the problem of not making your house completely dark from the inside.
You can easily do this during the breeding season and clean it when the danger is reduced.
8. Paint Patterns on The Outsides of Windows
Soap and oil, however, will get washed out by rain. It is the cheapest way but not the most effective in such cases. Easily available tempera paints work best.
They can be cleaned but won’t get washed by rain. You can paint designs that will most definitely look better than a dirty oiled window.
Consider exploring Colorations Simply Washable Tempera Paints.
The washable tempera paint washes from most surfaces.
9. Install Bird Tape
You can use tape to break the reflective nature of your glass windows. It is recommended to create a well-spaced vertical and horizontal line grid.
A bird tape is used for this purpose because it is simpler to get the correct spacing with it, and it is also long-lasting.
The bird, when it sees the tape grid on the window, senses a barrier. Some people might complain that this obstructs their view of the garden. The step does have its pros and cons.
However, you can imagine looking through a screen door while having the peace of never having to hear a bid collide.
10. Install One-Way Transparent Film
Installing a one-way transparent film can provide you with multiple benefits. It will seem opaque from the outside and will therefore deter the birds from crashing.
It won’t compromise your view from the inside and shield you from the harsh sunlight.
11. Minimize Nighttime Illumination
Try to close the curtains or lights during the nighttime. The birds fly back to their nests, and they see the light as a potential flight path.
You won’t find a more cost-effective method than closing your lights entirely!
12. Install Zen Curtains
This is a simple product with an unusually complicated name. It is simply a few ropes strung vertically. It essentially serves the same purpose tape will, except it is more aesthetically pleasing.
It is easy to install and remove. The ropes will distort the reflection and scare the birds from getting their wings caught within them.
The ideal distance between two ropes or two rows of tape is 4 inches.
13. Place Decoys That Look Like Predatory Birds
While the Cardinals are territorial and will fight birds that are their competition, it is unlikely that they will do this at the expense of their life.
The cardinals are extremely precautious and will relocate if they find the area vulnerable to an attack.
Placing decoys that look like predatory birds like owls, for example, will deter them from coming near your windows. There are two things that you need to be mindful of if you take this step:
You might be driving the cardinals away from your yard and not just the window.
Decoys can lose their effect if left in the same place for long. You can try changing the position and location occasionally.
You can easily find owl decoys on amazon. We recommend exploring the Hausse 2 Pack Fake Horned Owl Bird Scarecrow Decoy.
Bird Repellent Garden Protectors - Horned Owl statue set could scare away the animals like birds, pests, squirrel, raccoons, and more.
14. Place Feather Guards
The feather guard is made out of bird feathers tied on a string about 8 inches away. These feather strands are then extended horizontally across windows that are hit regularly.
Birds will be driven to stop flying into windows once they notice these feathers.
As evil as it may sound, the loose feature serves as a warning signal for the birds. They will fear the area sensing the risk of an attack.
15. UV-reflective Glass
This step makes most sense if you are building or remodeling your house. It is best to install windows, keeping the cardinals in mind.
Having UV reflective glass is ideal because it is visible to the bird while remaining transparent to humans.
You can also try angling the windows a bit downwards so that it doesn’t reflect your yard’s scenery.
Cardinals Attacking Cars
Just like windows, even cars have reflective surfaces. A cardinal will not think twice before crashing into the back mirror of your car despite the unlikely possibility of finding a competitor there.
There are many things you can do to deter the cardinals from flying into your car‘s windows.
You can try placing car shades in the windows. Not only will it save the bird, but also lower the temperature of your car from inside.
Many people also put car covers to protect it from intense heat, bird poop, and dust. It can also help your birds from knocking over. You can also try parking away from areas that are cardinal-dominated.
Put an old glass or a vehicle side mirror out in the backyard at a location where the male cardinal will discover it, and let him battle his imaginary competitor far from your windows.
Do Window Attacks Cause Injury?
The level of injury greatly depends on the nature of it. If the bird hasn’t crashed into a window and is merely trying to threaten its reflection, injury is unlikely. These activities can, however, create weariness, making the bird more susceptible to illness, hunger, and predation.
Cardinals will not always smash into the glass to chase the competitor away. They may peck at the mirror, scrape it with their claws, or strike it with their wings.
During actual attacks, they may show aggressive attitudes and threatening poses in front of the glass.
In such cases, however, cardinals fly from a distance and at speed, so the injuries can be fatal. The bird can die even if it is just momentarily shocked and unable to fly away.
Internal bleeding or bruising, particularly in the brain, is a common cause of death in these birds. The stunned cardinals frequently fall prey to predators such as household cats.
Did You Know?
Each year, up to 1 billion birds die in the United States due to window hits.
How To Help A Cardinal Who Has Flown Into A Window?
The best help you can give to an injured cardinal is transporting it to a professional.
A cardinal that has flown into your window may not always need your help. First, examine the bird that has been stunned by a window hit for exterior injuries. If the injuries seem minor, leave the bird to recover. If not, assist the bird until you can reach out to a wildlife rehabilitator.
If you wonder whether you can still assist the bird even if it doesn’t have a significant injury, the answer would be yes. You can check to see if the bird can rest on its own.
You may attempt to place water or feed near the stunned bird to regain energy and consciousness.
You can determine if the bird has mild to no injuries by looking at the wings and eyes. If both wings are correctly secured, with neither sagging, and the eyes appear normal, then the cardinal is fine.
If there is a very obvious injury, do not try to play doctor. The cardinal may have severe bruising or bone damage. Your best bet is to contact a professional.
If you want to avoid an operation or surgery, proper medical assistance must be administered to the bird immediately. The first four hours are incredibly crucial.
You can do a few things while you wait for professional help. You can place it in a shoebox and put it somewhere there is low light and no noise. There are a few things that you should be very careful about:
Do not keep opening the box; the bird might feel threatened and may try to fly away despite the injury.
Make sure the location you choose isn’t too hot or too cold. The bird needs to be warm.
Do not attempt to feed it anything as that might result in the bird choking.
Avoid picking it up or touching it unnecessarily.
Ensure there are no domestic pets around to prey on the helpless bird.
You can attempt to take the shoe box outside once after a short while to see if the bird has recovered and is ready for a fight.
Do not attempt to keep the bird. Cardinals are protected under laws pertaining to wild birds. You can be penalized for capturing, mishandling, or killing them.
Isn’t saving the cardinals from crashing into or pecking at the windows without hurting them simple and convenient? You can cover your windows either internally or through external shades or shutters.
The reflection can be distorted by applying any kind of substance. The birds cannot see their own reflection, and anything that prevents that will stop your cardinals from flying into your windows.
To find out more about why cardinals are so territorial, read our post!
Are you trying to find out if cardinals are territorial or not? Keep reading to find out the truth about them.
David A. Swanson
Bird Watching USA
My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!