Friend to Birds

Gail Walter’s interest in birds was hatched by a childhood copy of Golden Guide to Birds, and intensified as an active adult birder. Now, that enthusiasm for birds has fully fledged into a passion for saving them.

A former SWMLC Board member Gail, is a veterinary clinical pathologist who is deeply troubled by recent, steep declines in bird populations and is doing everything she can to help. She’s vigorously involved with both regional and local environmental organizations, and also serves as liaison between Kalamazoo’s resident peregrine falcons and the human community. So, when she left SWMLC’s Board last year due to term limits, we honored her work with an unusual gift: “bird safety window film.”

Gail Walter with one of the Kalamazoo peregrine falcons. Photo courtesy of Gail Walter.

Gail Walter and one of the Kalamazoo peregrine falcons | Photo courtesy of Gail Walter.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, nearly one billion birds collide with glass in the U.S. every yearand most of those deaths occur when birds hit buildings and homes that are shorter than four stories, not skyscrapers as is commonly thought. Birds have fatally crashed into the windows of the lunch room at SWMLC’s office on several occasions, and Gail was concerned. The nearly floor-to-ceiling windows are absolutely lovely for indoor humans, but from the outside, they mirror a scene of sky and trees that fools birds into thinking they can fly through. Gail knew that bird safety window film was the remedy.

Bird safety film

Bird safety window film is applied to the outside of the glass with a sticky backing. It’s covered in small holes that make windows look opaque from outdoors, clearly signaling a solid barrier. From indoors, the dot pattern is hardly noticeable, and cuts glare while providing relief from summer heat.

Gail Walter with one of the Kalamazoo peregrine falcons. Photo courtesy of Gail Walter.
From the outside, bird safety film breaks up reflections, helping birds understand that it is a solid barrier.
From the inside, the dot pattern is less noticeable and cuts glare while reducing summer heat.

We didn’t expect Gail to install her own gift, but she knew that the application could be tricky and asked her helpful husband Tom Nehil (retired engineer) for assistance. The two had the film up in less than an hour and it looks great – and no birds have hit the glass since!

Gail's husband Tom smoothes out the adhesive film with a squeegee.

Tom Nehil using a squeegee to smooth bird safety film onto SWMLC’s office windows.

When asked why she cares about birds, Gail shrugged, “All creatures need a safe and healthy environment . . . and what’s good for birds is also good for people.”


Thank you, Gail and Tom!

Making windows bird-safe

To make your windows bird-safe, remember that you must break up the reflections on the outside of the glass. Indoor treatments don’t work. Neither do randomly placed decals that trick birds into thinking they can dive through the reflected images in between, as Gail has learned through painful experience. This photo shows where a bird actually broke the glass when it tried to fly between the decorative leaf and hummingbird decals.

There are effective DIY fixes such as:

•  painting scenes or patterns with water-soluble tempera paint (this is one of the windows that Gail painted at her home);
•  attaching dangling strings, called ‘Zen wind curtains’ from your gutters at 2-3″ intervals;
•  or attaching window screen to the outside of the glass with suction cups to break the reflection.

There are also many good products on the market,

including those we purchased from CollidEscape.

Find lots more tips, recommendations, and product links

at this excellent article from Portland Audubon.

One of the windows that Gail painted at home using water-soluble paint.

Birds need our help.

A new study has shown that nearly 3 billion birds in the US and Canada – across all groups – have disappeared since 1970. It’s a staggering loss.
But there are things that each of us can do to help, like
•   turning off outdoor lights that disorient migrating birds
•  keeping cats indoors
•  not using pesticides that kill birds’ insect food
•  choosing native plants for our yards
•  making our windows bird-safe. 
Learn more at Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bring Birds Back page by clicking here.

More reading:

Why Birds Hit Windows—And How You Can Help Prevent It, Cornell Lab All About Birds
Why Do Birds Fly Into Windows? Mass Audubon
Tips for Reducing Window Strikes at Home, Portland Audubon
Threats to Birds: Collisions-Buildings & Glass, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Biology students lead investigation into bird-friendliness at WMU, Western Herald
Gail Walter and SWMLC Board member Dr. Sharon Gill worked with Western Michigan University biology students to develop a research study into bird-window strikes on campus.


American Redstart photo, Andrew Cannizzaro, Wikimedia Commons
Story and film installation photos, Amelia Hansen
DIY window treatment photos, Gail Walter
Photo of Gail with peregrine falcon, courtesy of Gail Walter