How To Stop Hummingbirds Hitting Windows

It can be devastating for any birder to hear the dull thud of a bird hitting a window or to find a collision victim underneath a favorite window with an otherwise delightful view of feeders. Even more upsetting is when that bird is a hummingbird, and unfortunately these tiny birds are more vulnerable to window collisions than many other species. With care, however, it is possible to stop hummingbirds from hitting windows and protect them from these dangerous obstacles.

Why Collisions Are Worse for Hummingbirds

Because hummingbirds are so tiny, their bones are proportionally thinner and easier to break than other backyard species. Therefore, a collision that might only bruise or stun a sparrow, thrush, or finch could easily break a hummingbird’s bones, causing fatal debilitation. Furthermore, because these birds have such tiny feet that they cannot walk or hop adequately, they are more vulnerable if their wings are injured and their flight abilities impaired. Similarly, if their needle-like bills break, they will be unable to feed properly, and because of their high metabolism, they can quickly dehydrate or starve if they cannot feed regularly. A hummingbird typically feeds every 15-20 minutes throughout the day, so if an injury keeps the hummer from regular sips of nectar, the consequences can be deadly.

Preventing Hummingbirds From Hitting Windows

There are many ways to safeguard hummingbirds and protect them from window collisions without missing out on the joys of feeding these birds. To keep hummingbirds safe, consider…

  • Feeder Placement
    Positioning hummingbird feeders closer than 1-2 feet from a viewing window or greater than 10 feet away from the glass will keep the birds safest. If a feeder is very close, even a tiny hummingbird cannot gather enough speed for a dangerous collision, while if the feeder is far away, the bird can more easily avoid the glass. Birders need to be aware that these distances are slightly different than the recommended placements for seed feeders, however, because of hummingbirds’ smaller sizes and unique vulnerabilities.
  • Window Decals
    Installing window decals or coverings to break up glass reflections can help birds better see the surface and avoid collisions. Ideally, decals should be no more than 1-2 inches apart because these tiny birds could easily fit between more widely spaced decals and might attempt that route if they panic. Fritting dots, reflective tape, soap lines, and even hanging crystals, ribbons, or suncatchers can be used in place of decals with the same effect.
  • Awnings and Coverings
    Any coverings that break up the sun’s reflection on window glass can help protect hummingbirds from collisions. Exterior awnings are a great option, or shutters that can be closed over the glass can help as well without completely obstructing the view. Interior draperies and curtains can also cut down on reflections so birds do not see the glass as a clear passageway or flight path.
  • Dirty Glass
    While crystal clear, sparkling clean glass will give the best views of hummingbirds, it is also the hardest for hummingbirds to see. Glass that is slightly dirty or shows water spots, dust, or dirt, however, is more opaque and hummingbirds can see it more easily. The glass does not need to be so filthy that it is impossible to see out, but having it just dirty enough to be noticeable means the glass is also more noticeable – and avoidable – for hummingbirds.
  • Planter Boxes
    Using planter boxes as natural feeders filled with nectar-rich flowers can attract birds right to the window for great views, but they will be drawn to the flowers and not to the glass. When they are feeding on flowers in the boxes, they will be so close to the glass that any accidental collision will be a gentle one that should not cause injuries. Birders can even add small hummingbird feeders in the planter box for even better views of visiting hummers.
  • Eliminating Houseplants at Windows
    While window boxes filled with flowers for hummingbirds to visit can help birds avoid the glass, placing indoor houseplants near the window can actually be dangerous for hummingbirds. If the birds see the plants through the glass, they may mistake them as a suitable perch or shrub for shelter, and will hit the glass as they approach the plant and try to land. Removing the plants from popular windows will remove that temptation and protect the birds.

Ideally, it is best to use as many solutions as possible to protect hummingbirds from window collisions. When more tactics are used at once, the risk of dangerous collisions will be even less, and more hummingbirds will be safe.

One Solution to Avoid

One common solution to bird window collisions is to place a screen on the outside of the window. Not only will this help break up the window’s reflection, but any birds that do impact the window will be cushioned by the screen so the collision is not as dangerous. While this is an excellent technique to protect songbirds, it does not work as well for hummingbirds when their thin bills could get stuck in the screen’s mesh. If this happens, the bird may struggle and injure itself further, or could become so entangled that it cannot free itself and will starve or dehydrate before it comes loose.

A good compromise is to opt for screen with larger mesh so a hummingbird’s bill cannot get stuck, but not so large that other birds’ feet or wings could get entangled. Wider netting that is roughly one-quarter of an inch for the mesh size is a good option to protect all birds.

Keeping All Hummingbirds Safe

While there are many ways to keep hummingbirds safe from window collisions, birders should not neglect other potential hummer hazards in their yards as well. All hummingbird feeders should be kept clean and fresh to avoid mold or fungus in the nectar, and insecticide use should be minimized so hummingbirds are not contaminated by dangerous yard or lawn chemicals. Steps should be taken to discourage cats and keep them from stalking around all bird feeders, and hummingbirds should have safe, dense shrubbery where they can retreat if they feel threatened. The more steps that are taken to protect hummingbirds from all threats, the more of these flying jewels birders will enjoy in their yards every year.

Melissa Mayntz

About Melissa Mayntz

Melissa Mayntz is a birder and a writer, naturally writing about birds. Her work has appeared with The Spruce, Farmers' Almanac, National Wildlife Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest and other publications. She is the author of Migration: Exploring the Remarkable Journeys of Birds (Quadrille Publishing, 2020), and is transforming her suburban backyard into prime bird habitat. Be Your Own Birder.