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Up to a billion birds die per year in North America as a result of striking windows. Both transparent and reflective glass panes are a cause for concern, misleading birds by either acting as invisible, impenetrable barriers to desired resources, or reflecting those resources over a large surface area. A high number of window strikes occur during migration, but little is known about the factors of susceptibility, or whether particular avian taxa are more vulnerable than others. We report on a study of window strikes and mist-netting data at the Virginia Zoological Park (Norfolk, Virginia, USA), conducted in the autumn of 2013 and 2014. We focused on three factors likely to contribute to an individual's predisposition to collide with windows: (i) taxonomic classification, (ii) age, and (iii) migrant vs. resident status. Thrushes, dominated by the partial migrant American Robin (Turdus migratorius), were significantly less likely to strike glass than be sampled in mist nets (χ2 = 9.21, p = 0.002), while wood-warblers (Parulidae) were more likely to strike than expected (χ2 = 13.55, p < 0.001). The proportion of juveniles striking windows (45.4%) was not significantly different (χ2 = 0.05, p = 0.827) than the population of juvenile birds naturally occurring at the zoo (48.8%). Migrants, however, were significantly more susceptible to window strikes than residents (χ2 = 6.35, p = 0.012). Our results suggest that resident birds are able to learn to avoid and thus reduce their likelihood of striking windows; this intrinsic risk factor may help explain the apparent susceptibility of certain taxa to window strikes.

Original Publication Citation

Sabo, A. M., Hagemeyer, N. D. G., Lahey, A. S., & Walters, E. L. (2016). Local avian density influences risk of mortality from window strikes. PeerJ, 4, 1-15. doi: 10.7717/peerj.2170

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