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Types of Window Strike Injuries in Wild Birds

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

Window strike is one of the most common collision injuries of birds. You may hear that sickening “thunk” against the window and then find a poor bird on the ground. It might be panting and conscious, looking stunned, or be injured significantly. Some are even killed outright. Below are some of the most common injuries found when treating different birds injured through window strikes, so you can be aware of the best steps to help these birds.

Photos Courtesy of Wild Bird Care Charitable Trust

Head impact injuries

Songbirds, for example, will often strike the window mid-flight, headfirst! If this happens, skull injuries and brain trauma are possible. If the blow was mild, the bird might be able to recover relatively quickly, having been only “stunned”, but be aware that if the bird does not recover that a more severe injury is likely. It could include skull fractures, brain bruising or bleeding or, rarely, spinal injuries. If the bird is still alive after an impact, it may show signs of neurological disease. Incoordination, vocalisation, or paralysis are signs of this. Some birds may not be responsive even though breathing and seemingly aware, whilst others may be unconscious. If possible, any of these birds should be taken immediately for vet treatment or to an experienced rehabilitator to assess and stabilise the bird.

Photo Courtesy of Wild Bird Care Charitable Trust

Chest impact injuries

Some species, such as pigeons and doves, may see their mistake at the last moment and attempt to adjust to prevent a collision. Often these birds will pull up and hit the window with their chest. The wings may also hit at this time. Although wing fractures are possible, the chest most often sustains the brunt of the impact. Chest injuries could include bruising of the sternum, fractured sternum or coracoid fractures. The Coracoid bone is a stabilising bone of the shoulder which is frequently broken in some species (e.g. the New Zealand kereru). These birds may have no outer injuries apparent but are unable to fly. As such, you may see them on the ground near a window hours to days later, and they will not be able to fly off when approached. Diagnosis of sternum or coracoid fractures requires an x-ray for diagnosis.

Photo Courtesy of Wild Bird Care Charitable Trust

It’s also important to realise that there may be internal injuries such as bleeding, organ damage or bruising - even the heart can sustain impact injuries in some species such as kereru (Cousins et al., 2012). Surprisingly, many chest and coracoid injuries can fully resolve with time, with pain relief and cage rest if they have survived the initial trauma.

What you can do:

  1. Keep injured or stunned birds safe from predators in a box with a towel lining the bottom and leave within a quiet, warm and dark location. If the injury is mild, they may recover within approximately half an hour and be released if flying well.

  2. If the bird does not recover or has significant injuries, or you are not sure, then take for further assessment by a vet or rehabilitator experienced with birds.

  3. Remember that some injuries are not a death sentence, so it can be best to give them a chance to recover within a rehabilitation setting.


Cousins, R. A., Battley, P. F., Gartrell, B. D., & Powlesland, R. G. (2012). Impact injuries and probability of survival in a large semiurban endemic pigeon in New Zealand, Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 48(3), 567-574.

Written by Janelle Ward

Wildlife Veterinarian & Co-founder of Learn Bird Care Ltd.


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