Helping a Bird After a Window Strike

Earlier this week, I saw my first ever Indigo Bunting. Unfortunately, I saw it after it struck a window at

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 from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s site, All About Birds.

A bird flew into a window and seems stunned, but not dead. What do I do?
Approach the bird cautiously. If it’s only slightly stunned, it may fly up suddenly and could attack if startled. Examine it very gently and carefully, moving it as little as possible.
Does the bird have obvious injuries, including broken or dragging wings?
  • Yes: Contact a rehab facility immediately. Don’t try to care for the bird yourself unless you have experience and know-how.
  • No: Pick the bird up gently and place it on a low tree branch or shrub.
Can the bird balance itself on a branch in a safe location while it recovers?
  • Yes: Leave the bird alone in the tree or bush, but watch for predators like cats that may attack it while it’s vulnerable. After a time, it will fly off on its own.
  • No: If you don’t see any obvious injuries but the bird is unable to stand, place it in a dark box in quiet, safe location. Do not give it food or water or handle it any more than is necessary.
After 15 minutes, open the box (always outdoors). Does the bird fly away?
  • Yes: Great! Your job is done.
  • No: Wait another 15 minutes and try again. Repeat for an hour or two. If the bird does not recover by then on its own, contact a wildlife rehab facility for assistance.

Need a local rehab facility? Try this site for a pretty comprehensive listing: WildlifeRehabber.org

Migratory Bird Act: Technically it’s illegal to handle any bird protected by the Migratory Bird Act (which includes most birds) without a permit. It’s usually not a problem to interact with them for a few minutes to provide assistance, but private citizens are not allowed to keep them in captivity.

Of course, the best solution is to help birds avoid window strikes in the first place. See these posts for advice:

More questions? Click here to visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s site.

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.