Woodpecker vs Window

Chances are, you’ve been sitting quietly at your kitchen table or lounging on your living room couch and heard a loud thump at your sliding glass door or living room window. Upon inspection, you noticed a bird sprawled out on your deck or lawn. Or, the bird may have been standing there below the door or window motionless, dazed and confused.

Stunned bird on pavement after window strike (Carrie Herring).

The chances of this happening are greatly increased if you have a bird feeder in your yard. Even so, just about every building has windows and sooner or later a bird is likely to fly into one of them. The bird may see the reflection of trees and sky in the window and fly Into it thinking it’s flying towards, well, trees and sky. Hopefully the bird recognizes its mistake at the last second and doesn’t fly full-throttle into the window, escaping with nothing but a few bruises and damaged pride (anthropomorphically speaking). Unfortunately, statistics suggest most window strikes by birds end in death.

There are ways to lower the odds of bird strikes with windows. We here at the museum put decals and stickers on our windows to decrease the likelihood of birds flying into them.

Of course, you can’t stop them all. Just the other day a call went out on the radio to our Animal Department. There’s a stunned bird outside the front door of the museum, obviously, a window strike. I usually drop everything and go running when I hear a window strike call. I want to see what species was involved in the incident.

When a window strike occurs our animal department hastens to the scene to assess the situation. If the bird is still alive they place it in a paper bag or cardboard box and cover it. The darkness calms the bird and the thought, or hope, is that the bird will recover after a few minutes, half hour, or however long it takes, and fly off on its own. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

Keeper Aaron gently cradles bird in hands (Carrie Herring).
The bird, a yellow-bellied sapsucker, is placed in cardboard box (Carrie Herring).

I must have been doing something very important when the call went out, I didn’t go on this one. I’m sorry I didn’t. But, thanks to Carrie (Retail Ops) who took photos of the bird, I discovered it was an adult male yellow-bellied sapsucker. I would have liked to have gotten a few close shots of the bird myself.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker in natural habitat.
Sapsucker holes, or wells, in trunk.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are woodpeckers who drill those nice shallow holes in the trunks and branches of trees. The holes fill with sap and the birds suck it up. The sap also attracts insects, which, along with the sap, attracts other birds and even butterflies, in the right season.

Sapsuckers are winter visitors in our area. They typically arrive in September and October and depart in April and May. They do, however, nest in our mountains to the west.

Our window-struck sapsucker flew off after a short rest. Hopefully he’s up in the trees now happily drilling nice neat holes somewhere on our 84 acre sylvan habitat.

2 responses to Woodpecker vs Window

    • gregdodge
      gregdodge says:

      Hey Katie! Keep an eye out for Williamson’s Sapsucker out your way.

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