Why Birds Fly into Windows

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Why is this cardinal flying into my window, car mirror or car bumper?

Spring is here and once again, Duncraft is receiving lots of calls about a strange, but very common phenomenon–cardinals repeatedly flying into windows, car mirrors or any other reflective surface. Other birds have been reported exhibiting the same behavior–bluebirds, robins and wrens to name a few.

What is going on and how do you stop it? Although female birds have been known to do this, it’s mostly male birds that repeatedly fly into windows. The reason is simple. In spring all birds are staking out territories. Birds seldom allow other birds of the same species to share territories because too many of one species in an area depletes food sources and nesting locations.

A cardinal may tolerate a catbird nesting nearby because the birds are after different nesting locations and different foods, but it won’t tolerate another cardinal. When a male cardinal spots another male, a chasing fight will ensue. The dominant male gets the mate, the nesting location, the territory and the food in that area. A lot is at stake! When a cardinal happens to see its reflection in your window or car mirror, it’s seeing another bird in its territory–and that’s not allowed. The bird will continuously attack until the other bird goes away. In nature, the other bird will indeed go away, but that reflection just stays there! Being persistent, the cardinal just continues to attack its own reflection.

All you have to do is block the reflection. The easiest way to do this is to put a piece of cardboard on the outside of the window where the bird is attacking. It may not look pretty, but you don’t have to do it for long–only until the bird thinks the other bird has departed. As soon as the bird is mated and is busy with nest building and feeding nestlings, he’ll calm down and won’t be worried about intruders. Other cardinals will be busy too, in territories of their own.

What seemed like a mystery turns out to be a simple, springtime response to another bird. And it’s easily remedied! Shop duncraft.com for cardinal window feeders.

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  • dana April 10, 2012 at 8:31 am

    We have a nuthatch that’s going crazy at the windows. At first my daughter thought someone was knocking on her door.

  • richard December 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    I have read all about Cardinals flying into windows repeatedly but it sounds like that is because they nesting and are territorial. I have a female cardinal doing that now in December????

  • Marilyn December 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    A bird was constantly flying into the window of the 5th wheeler in the RV park in Phoenix for several days – until I blew a whistle three times near the window in question. Like a miracle it worked!!! The bird flew away and has not returned (fingers crossed).

  • Jan December 31, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    We are being frustrated daily by a female cardinal repeatedly flying into our family room window….over and over. From what I have read here, it’s a territory thing and she thinks she is seeing another bird. It’s December and not Springtime. Following the tips here, I have now put up a piece of butcher paper over the window. My husband also blew a VERY loud air horn within several feet it and she immediately flew away. We are now sitting here to see if she will come back. The male cardinal just hangs around in the tree outside the window and watches the female bash herself into the window over and over. He does not participate in the ritual. Fingers crossed that this poor frustrated female does not come back.

  • Chris February 22, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    It is 2/22/13 yes spring is on the way. We have had a female red bird flying into our windows that r on our back porch which we rarely go onto. She began this morning at about 8am slamming into the back door cause we covered the window she was slamming into with a car board. It was very frightful for me to see her slamming into the back door which leds into my bed room. It alarmed me due to all the old tales saying it was a sign of death to come. Well i became alarmed for the bird cause i don’t believe in the tales but i was worried that the bird would kill itself cause it was slamming so hard. My husband went out and covered the back door with black plastic, she came from so far away and i don’t mind her nesting near by just don’t want her to hurt herself. why r the females becoming so aggressive? I could see if there had been a male around to show off for perhaps but i saw only her. But she returned to the porch after my husband covered the door and now she just sits and pecks the window above our air conditioner and tweets i hope that she will be ok. She slammed those windows really hard and kept on for about a week till we thought to cover the windows. Then i found this site i’m glad i did. It has taken a lot of worry off me.

  • Tara March 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    This morning as I was leaving the dr’s office I heard a bang on my car window. I looked out & see this res cardinal repeatedly flying straight into my window- I took about 4 minutes of great footage where you can see the bird up close. After a while I decides to take off & before I left it can my front windshield to say goodbye.

  • Colleen May 9, 2013 at 8:43 am

    I have a neighbour whose insistent on putting mirrors up on her fence. I have seen a bird on SEVERAL occasions attacking it (this goes on for hours). I fear this little guy will get hurt and have taken it down, more than once. The mirror gets replaced the very next day!!! I have not confronted her as I really don’t know if there is something I don’t understand, everything I have read tells me this is a no no!!! Please help

  • Tom December 28, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    This bird starts every morning at 7 a.m. He is a dove. I put an owl on the fence that seemed to work for a while. But now it’s back. Driving my cats crazy. I’m going to try the paper to stop the reflection. I live in central Phoenix.

  • Richard December 29, 2013 at 10:03 am

    We also have a male cardinal who repeatedly flies into our bedroom window. It is December on Cape Cod, so I’m curious what might be causing this behavior since it’s not mating season. It starts every morning around 6:30 or 7:00 and goes on for at least an hour that I know of. Not sure if it continues after I leave the bedroom. The female just sits in a bush nearby and watches him. I will put up cardboard to see if that resolves the issue as I’m concerned that the cardinal is going to hurt himself. I’d be very interested in what is causing this behavior at this time of year. Thank you.

  • Kelly April 15, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    We have a female cardinal that follows us around the house. She knows where I am in the house & she sits on the window ledges, as if to say hello! When she sees us moving in the house, she flies to the nearest window – never attacking – but just saying hello. The male sits nearby & watches. We named the female Ruthie, after another female cardinal that did the same thing. See this blog: http://psychicjoystar.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/my-bird-story-devoted-female-cardinal-tapping-at-my-windows-and-my-childhood-parakeet/

  • Fran A May 1, 2014 at 7:36 am

    The cardboard is great advice. Our problem is that the birds are bumping up against several different windows on our first floor and one on the second floor. It’s hard to anticipate where the next bumping will occur. Will try though to deter; it’s just so sad to see and hear them at our windows.

  • Rhonda May 2, 2014 at 6:50 am

    How long do I leave the window covered?

  • Julie Baker May 5, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    I have a female cardinal constantly flying at my window and multiple times a day. She did the same thing last year at this very same time. Hoping she doesn’t hurt herself, but it is very entertaining. She sits on the windowsill and pecks at the glass. Was wondering why she even started. The lilac bushes almost cover the entire window. Glad I’m not alone on this.

  • Faith May 19, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Julie, I’ve seen male Cardinals do this. They see their reflection and they think it’s a competing male. I believe it’s a territorial thing.

  • Wanda May 23, 2014 at 5:45 am

    I have a red cardinal repeatedly flies into our bedroom and bathroom window for a month now. I heard about the old tales about death not sure if I believe that or not. Two people have cancer in the family. I am afraid the bird will kill itself. I cover the windows that doesn’t work. I don’t know what to do.

  • Nini June 29, 2014 at 7:50 am

    We have a cardinal knocking on our window):
    We didn’t put anything up.
    But it stoped…for now

  • Frustrated July 27, 2014 at 9:56 am

    We have had a pair of cardinals for the last 6 months that keep attacking our car mirrors. They will even fly into the gargage shortly after the garage door opens. We have put plastic bags on our vehicles, but now they are getting caught in the garage. What can we do to make these cardinals calm down or go away?

  • Rick November 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    We have a male Cardinal and sometimes a male and female that crash into our windows. Last year is was just in the spring. This year it started in March and is still going on in November. It is driving us nuts! We tried covering the slider with paper but they would find any spot not covered. Has anyone tried a stuffed owl or something like that?

  • tom February 12, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    I have a female cardinal running into the windows.
    I have the windows frosted ( no reflection) also I have lattis over the window and the window is under a deck but that does not stop her. This has been going on for 4 years now all year round! There has to be another reason for this other than her reflection

    • Heidi Babb February 17, 2015 at 11:26 am

      I have never heard of birds flying repeatedly into non-reflective surfaces, and I haven’t been able to find anybody writing about it, either. My best guess is that she actually can see her reflection somehow, although it surely doesn’t sound likely! Please contact us directly about this — perhaps with more information we can help you find a solution. Our email is info@duncraft.com, and we can also be reached at 800-763-7878 Monday-Friday from 8:30am-5:00pm et. Thank you!

  • Karen Fowler July 22, 2015 at 10:45 am

    I don’t know if it’s a male or female but we have a cardinal that’s been flying into our windows for 1 1/2 years!!! We built a new home in north Texas and since I’ve read how territorial they are, we must of built where this cardinal had a nest. Every morning when the sun comes up it’s flying into our MBR windows and wakes us up. During the day he flies around to the other windows. It has become so annoying we don’t know what to do!! I tried placing some rubber snakes on our window seals and they worked for a little while but it’s no longer effective. I feel like it’s more than this bird seeing it’s reflection in the windows……it’s more like he’s torturing us!

  • diane December 23, 2015 at 7:59 am

    We have a female cardinal that repeatedly flies to 4 of our windows. This has been going on for 7 months or more. I’ve witnessed the bird with seeds and things in it’s beak. When I went to clean the windows there was a lot of debris/food? in between screen and window. Would like to know what the food/ debris thing is about as I can’t see the bird is that dumb to try and build a nest for 7 months.

    • Heidi Babb December 24, 2015 at 10:36 am

      There are quite a few reasons why this could be happening. I offer a bit more information on another blog on window strikes. Also, the Duncraft Customer Service Team is ready to provide you with a variety of solutions to help eliminate window strikes at your home or office. We’re available Monday-Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm ET. You can reach us at 888-879-5095 or by email at info@duncraft.com.

  • Haley Alexander August 20, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Is cardinal (male) has been doing this for about 3 months and it won’t stop!

  • Tommy G December 25, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    It’s Christmas Day in Nashville, and a Cardinal has been attacking everything Chrome on my Dodge Ram for over a week now. I don’t have a garage to put the truck in, I’ve covered the front end chrome (which he has had his WAY with, but now he has moved to ALL 4 rims. I don’t own a Full Car Cover for the truck (I don’t believe they even make a cover that large). I’ve tried moving the vehicle from where it is normally parked, to no avail. Living 25+ miles outside of Nashville and having to leave an hour in advance to get to work on time, covering all the chrome on my truck (removing it in the A.M. and replacing it every evening) is NOT an option for me. Any suggestions on how to resolve this issue, without having to trap and relocate the perpetrator??

    • Heidi Babb December 30, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Hi Tommy G,
      I’m sorry to hear about your cardinal problem. Covering the chrome is really the best solution — you could also try smearing it with something that would reduce the shine. Soap works well on windows, but I’m not sure how it would work on chrome. Be aware that trapping a native songbird may not be legal in your state, so you might want to check with your local Fish and Game department before taking any other steps. Sorry I don’t have any better advice!

  • Constance Scott February 5, 2017 at 7:48 am

    We have 4 cars and have been battling the same Cardinal for 2 yrs now. It is impossible to keep the car clean and when he gets really excited he attacks the dogs.

  • Melissa February 9, 2017 at 9:14 am

    I have a male cardinal that has been flying into and tapping on my dining room windows throughout the day, every day, since October. It’s there even in the evening when it’s dark out. Not sure what’s going on.

  • K. Ford April 4, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    After reading all the post I now understand why I see this same cardinal almost everyday on my car’s driver door hitting back and forth against my side view mirror and my drivers door glass repeatedly. This has been happening almost everyday for the last few weeks. I thought it was kind of strange so I used Google to try and get an understanding on this odd behavior for this cardinal.

  • Lana Ison June 21, 2016 at 11:46 am

    I got up early this morning and washed my windows . Placed. strips of tape every three inches up and down across Windows. I have 6 large windows in front and three in back. Did all windows alike. The birds are out there , but they just sit on the railing and look and fly away. They keep coming back, but so far have not flew into the windows. Time will tell.