Help a Stunned Bird That Flew Into a Window

Updated: Apr. 03, 2024

If you find a bird that flew into a window, it's important to know how to help the stunned bird survive. Learn what the birding experts say.

Earlier this week, I saw my first ever indigo bunting. Unfortunately, I saw it after it struck a window at the building where I work, and I was called in to help it out. I thought other bird lovers might sometimes face this situation and need to know how to handle it, so here are some simple tips on how to help a shocked or stunned bird that flew into a window.

Approach the Stunned Bird Cautiously

bird flew into windowJill Staake
Indigo bunting that struck a window

Slowly walk toward the bird that flew into the window. If it immediately flies away, then your work is done. If it can’t fly away, it needs proper care. Please be aware that if the bird is only slightly stunned it may fly up suddenly as you approach. Even small songbirds can cause injuries and must be handled with care, for your protection and theirs.

If you spot an injured raptor or other large bird, such as heron or gull, do not try to handle it as they can be very dangerous. Monitor it from a safe distance and call a local wildlife office or rehabilitation center immediately for guidance.

Check out 5 ways to create a bird-safe backyard.

Get Professional Help

Many bird rehabilitators agree that any stunned bird needs proper care. If it’s safe to do so, place the bird in a shoe box or a similar box with a lid with a paper towel or cloth under the bird for stability. Once the bird is secured, contact your local wildlife agency or wildlife rehabilitator for guidance.

Is It Illegal to Care for an Injured Bird?

Native birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Act. It’s usually not a problem to interact with injured birds to provide assistance, but private citizens are not allowed to keep them in captivity.

Psst—here’s what to do if you find a bird nest with eggs or a baby bird.

How to Prevent Window Strikes

golden crowned kingletCourtesy Peggy Helm
This stunned golden-crowned kinglet recovered after hitting a window.

Of course, the best solution is to help birds avoid window strikes in the first place. Check your property for obstacles that may injure birds. Clear windows pose a danger, so consider installing insect screens or window films. They are generally inexpensive and can be installed on most windows.

How to Help a Bird in Shock

“A chickadee hit my window and was in shock after. If that ever happens again, what should I do?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Jaylin Madison of Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman say, “Window strikes are tragically common, killing hundreds of millions of birds every year.
Here’s a brief summary of advice from wildlife care professionals. If you find a stunned bird, put it in a small box. Cushion and prop the bird up in a normal position with some soft cloth. Don’t try to give it food or water. These birds often have hidden injuries, so if at all possible, take it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. If that isn’t possible and the bird seems alert and unhurt after resting a while, let it go in a safe place outdoors.
Next, learn what you need to know about wild bird diseases.

About the Experts

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman are the official birding experts for Birds & Blooms. They are the creators of the Kaufman Field Guide series and they speak and lead birding trips all over the world.

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