The Birds & Windows Citizen Science Project

Posted by Charlotte Wasylik, aka Prairie Birder:

In September, the University of Alberta launched its Birds & Windows Project to get a more accurate estimate of the number of bird-window collisions in houses in Canada. As project author Justine Kummer wrote on the website,

As part of the University of Alberta’s Birds and Windows Project, we are looking for people to search for evidence of bird window collisions on a regular basis. Ideally you will search your residence daily for a period of at least one month. There is no limit to the number of months you can be involved in the project however, if a daily search does not suit your lifestyle we still want you to participate.


Environment Canada released a report in September on the nine leading causes of bird deaths in the country. Collisions with houses or buildings tied for second spot along with power lines. About 25 million birds are killed each year in this country by window collisions, and about 90 percent of those occur at houses.

Photo courtesy of Birds and Windows

Photo courtesy of Birds & Windows Project

For her master’s thesis in biology, Justine developed the project “to use citizen science and active participation to continue to identify the factors that affect collision risk at residential homes”:

To better understand what can be done to reduce bird window collisions at your home, the University of Alberta has developed this project to actively involve YOU in data collection. We are asking you to think about bird window collisions you have observed in the past and would like you to regularly search around your residence for evidence of bird window collisions in the future.

Justine is hoping to use all of the data gathered to learn more about the frequency of bird-window collisions in order to find ways to prevent them. She wrote recently that based on the study’s early results in the first two months,

only 20 percent of window collisions resulted in a dead bird. A number of past studies have only used dead birds as evidence of a window collision but based on our early numbers it seems these studies may have only … reported 20 percent of the collisions.

Photo courtesy of Birds and Windows

Photo courtesy of Birds & Windows Project

So far the project has 600 participants registered, and they’ve completed almost 10,000 observations and recorded 256 window collisions. This could provide a great amount of information. As the website notes,

Unlike previously thought, bird window collisions are NOT random. Early studies suggested all bird species of varying size, health and conservation status were at risk and there was no time, season or weather condition during which birds are immune to glass (Klem 2009). Additionally, it has been believed that the best predictor of collision rate at any one site is the density of birds (Dunn 1993). Recent studies have shown this is not true. In a study by Hager et al (2013) the carcasses collected at 20 buildings tended to be low to moderately abundant species or species never detected during point counts. Many abundant bird species did not collide with windows.

The project is still in the beginning phase, with plans to keep running for at least a full year, so there is still lots of time left to participate. There is also a survey. And even if you don’t participate in the Project, if bird-window collisions are a problem at your house, this page has some tips to reduce those collisions.

Another component of the Project is “a motion capture camera system that can be set up at windows to attempt to catch evidence of a bird window collision. The system includes a small webcam that connects directly into a Raspberry Pi“, a credit-card sized computer that plugs into a TV and keyboard.  Justine wrote to me that

this upcoming fall and winter small camera systems will be set up at residential homes with motion capture photography in an attempt to try and catch a bird window collision. We are currently looking for participants with a previous history of window collisions at their home to participate. If this system is successfully tested we hope to launch a bird feeder study in the spring. The main objective of this study will be to identify the relationship between bird feeders and bird window collisions.

There’s a chance I might get to participate with a camera set up by one of my windows, even though I don’t live very close to the U of A. I’ll be sure to update here if I do, and also with follow-ups on the Project, its news, and any results.

In addition to the website, you can find the Birds & Windows Project on Facebook and Twitter too!

About Charlotte Wasylik

Charlotte Wasylik is a young birder who lives on a farm in northeastern Alberta. She was delighted to be selected for a monthlong Young Ornithologists’ Internship at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario in August-September, to help with fall migration monitoring. Charlotte’s blog is Prairie Birder, and you can also find her at the Facebook group she started last year, Alberta Birds, which welcomes all birders, bird lovers, and nature photographers.
This entry was posted in Bird Behaviour, Bird Canada, Bird Conservation Canada, Canadian Birds, Citizen Science, Conservation, Migration, Songbirds and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Birds & Windows Citizen Science Project

  1. Try sticking decals on your window like in the photo above, I hope that helps.

  2. Great job to crowdsource data collection on window collisions. I’m in my fifth year of near daily counts of mortalities and “trapped” birds at a building in Stillwater, OK. You can check out daily updates (plus summaries, issues, reports, etc.) here:

  3. Stella Kisiel says:

    I am very concerned with all the birds flying into my window recently. This past July I had a new (large) picture window installed in my living room. I had the manufacturer insert a grid at the top. I should have had the grid all the way down.

    I just can’t believe all those poor birds hitting and some injuring themselves. I tried hanging an object but it did nothing. I will try to place some decals. I have to find a solution.

    If you can suggest something more, I would appreciate it.

  4. Pingback: New Bird Canada Blog Post | Prairie Birder