The little Northern Saw-whet Owl sitting on the perch box eyed me suspiciously. And he did so with good reason—I am a predator in his eyes, afterall. But due to recent events, the owl had additional cause to be suspicious of anything in his immediate surroundings.
On March 11, the unsuspecting owl was flying through the Arboretum near the University of Washington toward a branch, a bush, or some other destination, on what appeared to be a clear flight path. However, the path was anything but clear, and the owl was struck from the sky by an invisible object.
Like thousands of birds do every year, the saw-whet owl had flown headlong into a window. When the light hits at just the right angle, a window behaves like a mirror, reflecting the nearby vegetation, sky or landscape. There are very few perfectly reflective vertical surfaces in nature, so birds who are looking at these window reflections have no reason to believe that what they're seeing is not real. Only the traumatic impact of the sudden collision breaks the illusion. If the bird is lucky, the illusion is the only thing that gets broken.
In the case of this saw-whet owl, the collision resulted in head trauma and bruising, but no apparent broken bones. For the past two weeks he has been steadily recuperating from his injuries at the PAWS Wildlife Center. He was recently moved into an outdoor flight enclosure and is on track to make a full recovery.
Not all birds who strike windows are as lucky as this owl. If you would like to learn more about preventing window strikes on your property, visit the Common Problems With Wildlife page on the PAWS website.