Last Updated on March 16, 2022 by Nancie
Feeding birds can draw birds close to your house and its unfriendly windows. The thump of a bird hitting glass hard gives me a sick feeling every time because bird window strikes can injure and even kill birds. As a responsible bird watcher, it is important to 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 glass 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 fairly 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 we tried 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 bird 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.
Supplies To Make Zen Wind Curtains
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.)
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.
- Tape measure and a pencil
- Hand saw to cut the J channel to size
- 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
- Lighter to burn the ends of the cut cord so that it doesn’t fray
Overview of Zen Wind Curtains Basic Directions
BirdSavers’ website has very good directions on how to make these. I’m not going to provide step-by-step details here, as it is not my original project. But the pictures below give you an overview of how we created zen wind curtains for our house. 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.
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.
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 the holes a bit bigger to accommodate that.
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.
Alternative Version of Zen Wind Curtains
2020: During a recent visit to the Howard County Conservancy here in Maryland, I noticed that they had Zen Wind Curtains on some of the large windows on their building. They used the alternative method to hang their cords. Instead of using the vinyl j channel at the top, they tied their cords to another length of cord. (See above.)
Zen Wind 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 gradually adding them to other windows. The second set Jim made went up over a pair of sliding glass doors that Mourning Doves kept flying into. Once the cords went up, they stopped hitting the window.
Our aging windows may need to be replaced at some point. But Jim assures me that it will be no big deal to take the wind curtains 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.
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 bird window strikes. They might have another option would fit your needs better.
2019 PS: I just stumbled on this post about bird window strikes: In the Field: Fall Migration with Heidi Trudell of Just Save Birds. Interesting read!
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4 thoughts on “Reduce Bird Strikes: DIY Birdsavers Zen Wind Curtains”
I made my own Zen wind curtains and so far no more bird strikes on my windows. Thank you.
I’m so glad it is working for you!
Hi Nancie I am loving this idea but need to know that without sun or wind will the birds still see and not fly into the windows we had to put blue painters tape all over the inside of the windows because we are losing 2 a week warblers, flickers it is an absolute heart wrenching nightmare- I also saw the video where you suggested feather friendly dots and am wondering if those will work well with no light can you please advise and help me
We’ve had the Birdsavers type cords on our windows for a few years now and they have worked very well for us. These particular windows are actually in the shade for the first half of the day and it isn’t always windy. So you don’t need a sunny location or a breeze for this to work. The trick that makes these work is that the cords hang close enough together that even if a bird can see through the window (or see a sky reflection in them), the bird still doesn’t have enough space between cords to fly between the cords so they don’t try it.
I have heard of people covering their windows with a close pattern of dots but have not tried that personally.