Science

These glittering ribbons scare away baby birds and also my focus

A few days ago, I hung sparkly strips of ribbon on my windows to keep baby birds from braining themselves on the glass. The sparkles are driving away the birds — and my ability to concentrate. There’s a circle of hell where you have to finish an assignment, and these eye-catching ribbons just keep glittering away.

It all started last spring, when a baby scrub jay took one of its first flights straight into my window. I can still remember its parents hopping and screaming around the dead little blue body. Although outdoor cats are the biggest killers of an estimated 1.85 billion birds a year, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, building glass comes in second. Birds fly into windows that reflect the environment — turning the glass into an optical illusion that kills about 676.5 million birds each year.

So this spring, I decided I needed to do something about my windows. Decals seemed like a good solution, but I’d read that they needed to be placed every two to four inches to keep birds from trying to fly through the gaps. All those decals would be a giant pain to put up. So instead, I ordered the Reflective Scare Tape by Predator Guard on Amazon. The ribbons are designed to frighten birds by fluttering and sparkling at them. For the birds, it’s a harmless irritant that keeps them from dying. For me, it’s a nightmare: My eyes follow the constant movement and flickering like a cat follows a laser pointer — and I can’t look away.


Bird dust left by a collision with the window.
Photo by Ted via Flickr

To be clear, this doesn’t seem to be one of the use cases that Predator Guard had in mind. The photos on their website show Scare Tape dangling off the prow of a boat, the railings of a dock, and in a fruit garden — not pasted to residential windows. (Predator Guard did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Still, the good news is that it seems to be working. I watched two black phoebes fly away from the ribbons fluttering in their direction, clearly disgusted by my decorating choices. The bad news is that the Scare Tape is having the same effect on me: I don’t want to go near my windows, either. Next year, I might invest in installing window screens to prevent bird collisions — or at least cushion the impact. But that’s significantly pricier than the $9.89 I paid for 150 feet of the Scare Tape.

So for now, I’m living in a sparkly prison of my own making until I either see this year’s baby scrub jay fly successfully far away from my windows, or until I can’t stand it anymore and tear down the glittering ribbons. Those little birds better be grateful I care about their feathered noggins.

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