Reducing Bird Strikes: DIY Birdsavers Project

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Zen Window Curtains
Zen Wind Curtains

When you feed birds, you are drawing more birds near to your house and its windows. You get a sick feeling in your gut when you hear the thump of a bird hitting glass hard. Bird strikes can injure and even kill birds. As a responsible bird watcher, you do what you can to reduce bird window strikes. With that in mind, I looked for an inexpensive solution that doesn’t obscure our view through the window. What I found was “Zen Wind Curtains” or “Birdsavers”.

Why Use “Zen Wind Curtains”?

Most of the time, adult birds are very coordinated and avoid flying into things. But the clear hard windows we put all over our buildings can cause them problems. Window reflections can appear to be a clear flight route, especially to a panicked bird trying to get away from a predator.

I’ve tried the fairy clear (to people) window stickers sold for this purpose on some of my windows. But to be effective, you can’t just use a couple of them. If your window is covered with enough to make a real difference, it would distort the view quite a bit. (See the butterfly stickers in the picture at the top.) I wasn’t happy with it. So now we’re trying a different approach: BirdSavers or “Zen Wind Curtains.” It’s pretty cool.

I came across this solution through American Bird Conservancy’s page on preventing window strikes. (They list quite a few options.) One suggestion is BirdSavers or “Zen Wind Curtains.” They are made of lengths of paracord that hang on the outside of your windows. The vertical hanging cords, spaced about 4” apart, are enough to convince a bird that there is not a wide enough space for clear flight. This is true even if the reflections they see in the glass make it look inviting beyond the cords.

The folks at Acopian BirdSavers will make the blinds for you if you like, or you can make them yourself. After looking over the project directions on their site, Jim and I chose to make them ourselves.

A Huge Roll of Parachute Cord
A Huge Roll of Parachute Cord

Supplies To Make Zen Wind Curtains

Military Paracord

To make them, we needed professional mil-spec paracord (parachute cord). Apparently a lot of paracord found locally may not be military grade and can shrink when it gets wet. So we purchased ours on Amazon.

We got a huge 1,000 foot roll, not because we needed all of it for this project, but because Jim thought the extra would be handy to have around. It worked out to be about thirteen cents per foot of cord. (This Amazon page for Tough-Grid 750lb Mil-Spec Paracord offers it in various amounts from 50 feet to 1000 feet. So you don’t have to get a huge roll if you don’t need that much. We got it in Camo Green.)

Project Supplies
Project Supplies

Vinyl J Channel

You can use paracord for the horizontal top of the curtains, but we decided to go with BirdSavers’ suggestion of vinyl J channel. Sold in ten-foot long strips, it is used for dry wall installation. It was available for next to nothing at the local home improvement store.

Other Supplies

  • a tape measure and a pencil
  • a hand saw to cut the J channel to size
  • a drill to make the holes in the J channel
  • sheet metal screws and a screw driver to attach the finished curtain above the window
  • sharp scissors to cut the cord
  • a lighter to burn the ends of the cut cord so that it doesn’t fray
  • and a ladder

Overview of Basic Directions

I’m not going to provide the step-by-step details, as it is not my original project. The BirdSavers website already has very good directions on how to make them. But here are a few pictures to give you the basic idea. As you can see, it really isn’t a difficult project.

Cut J Channel to Size

Cut the J channel to the width of the window. BirdSavers has a chart to figure how many cords and corresponding holes are needed in the J channel. This is based on the window size.

Some of the windows in our house are a bit odd though. Instead of one large window, several are two narrower windows placed side-by-side. The result is about six inches of frame wood in between. So we spaced cords for each individual window width, skipping cord/s that would go over this middle frame.

Burning the Paracord Ends
Burning the Paracord Ends

Cut Hanging Cords

You can make the cords any length that you like. BirdSavers suggests cutting them so that they hang an inch or two short of the bottom of the window. That way they swing loose at the bottom. We went with their suggestion, adding an inch to each cord for tying at the top.

Threading Paracord Through J Channel
Threading Paracord Through J Channel & Tying

Attach Cords to J Channel

Burn the ends of the cord pieces to keep them from fraying. Then push them through the holes in the J channel and tie it tightly at the top. The lip of the J channel hides the ties when they are mounted over the window.

Just make sure that you drilled the holes big enough so the cords can be threaded through them. We drilled the holes first but then found that burning the ends made the cord ends a bit wider. So we had to drill them a bit bigger to accommodate that.

Attaching the J Channel Above the Window
Attaching the J Channel Above the Window

Attach J Channel Over Window

Once you’ve got all the cords in place, attach the J channel over the outside of your window using screws. The cords hang down the length of the glass.

Zen Window Curtains
Zen Window Curtains

The Results Are Great!

We started with our dining room window just to see how we liked the look of it. It is the window closest to most of the feeders so it seemed like a good place to start. BirdSavers calls them “Zen Window Curtains” and they do have a kind of Japanese feel to them. I did initially worry that they might look like bars on the window. But they are light enough that they sway a little in the slightest breeze which is visually pleasant.

We are going to gradually add them to other windows. Our aging windows may need to be replaced at some point. But Jim assures me that it will be no big deal to take them down to get new windows installed and then re-hang them. We might need to add another cord or two if the new windows are a little different. But again, no big deal.

Zen Window Curtains
Zen Window Curtains

If this is something that you might like to do, check out the Acopian BirdSavers website and see what you think. If this look doesn’t work with your home’s style, check out the American Bird Conservancy’s page on window strikes. They might have another option would fit your needs better.


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