If you have bird feeders and trees at your home –and even if you don’t – you’re likely to have a couple of window crashes per year – and you might not know it.

Architects, builders, and the lighting-use habits of city building owners have, over the years, increased the hazards birds face, and have done little (so far, with some notable exceptions) to fix the reflections and inappropriate lights that confuse birds.

But homeowners can do a lot to help: by being careful where they hang their bird feeder (ask: what will a startled bird fly towards?) and by putting non-reflective tape and decals on windows so that birds realize it’s not a real window of sky to fly through.

Windows that have anti-reflection decals applied

Here’s what happened. Crashes tend to happen in the early morning. On April 15th at around 8:30, I was gazing out my patio door at my beloved house sparrows and some starlings, when what falls from above, but a wee kinglet. It had spread its wings as it landed next to the sill of the door. It had a better fate than if I had been a gull, as many city gulls actually do: stand around and wait for window-crashers to eat!

I swooped in and picked it up with a bander’s grip.

Bander’s grip is when you cover the bird’s back with your non-dominant hand, with its head inserted between two fingers, and only to your second knuckle. The bird is facing your fingertips, not your wrist. It leaves your dominant hand, and the bird’s legs, free to put a band on.

Photographer’s grip is with your dominant hand, and you’re gently pinching the bird’s legs.

So then I brought the little bird inside and made it a convalescence box. I fashioned a napkin “donut” to rest on, as it fell over on its side when I put it in the box. Birds cannot lie on their sides, because just like with some large animals, it’s harder for them to breathe. I let it rest, and after a few minutes it looked less stunned, so I took some photos.

Window-crashing Kinglet in a convalescence box
You can see the touch of orange in his cap, which means it’s a male
It flew to my chandelier (after resting)

About half an hour later, it flew out of its box and took a tour of my main floor. I filmed its flight and it seemed quite agile and comfortable, going from indoor perch to indoor perch.

When it got into my bean plants at the patio window, I had the opportunity to pick it up again. As it perched on my finger, I took photos while I carried it outside. It stayed on my finger all the way until I transferred it to a hanging honey locust branch. From there, it flew up to a branch in my tall cedar, and then it flew off.

Golden-crowned Kinglet, post-recovery

Being so close to downtown, I’ve had other migrating birds stop by to enjoy my tall tree and burbling pond. I never expected a visit from this particular bird, but I’m glad it turned out better than it might have.