Birds see spots at the Upper Mississippi Refuge center in La Crosse – and the spots save their lives

Wildlife officials are also encouraging homeowners to install window treatments to keep birds away.
Polka dot decals warn birds but do not block the view of visitors to the Lac Crosse District refuge office. (Photo by Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge)

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — More than 290 species of migratory birds passing through the Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge see spots in La Crosse, but that’s a good thing.

The dots are on decals installed as a safety precaution so birds do not slam against windows and suffer injury or death at the La Crosse District Visitor Center.

The upper Mississippi region is a popular route for migrating birds, as the refuge’s grassland, forest, marsh, and river habitats provide important food and nesting materials they need to survive.

The district received a $5,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service‘s Migratory Bird Division as part of a “bird-friendly facilities” challenge last year.

The grant provided the new dot pattern window decals to replace the old window treatments that were weathered and faded at the district office at N5727 County Road Z in Onalaska.

Birds don’t see glass well — they see reflections of the sky or plants inside or outside homes and assume they can fly through glass, according to a press release from the shelter. Many are injured or killed when they collide with the immovable glass.

The decals help birds see the glass and avoid accidents, while not blocking the view of the interior too much for visitors, the press release said.

Nearly a billion birds a year collide with glass in the United States, and most fatalities occur in buildings less than four stories high, such as district headquarters.

Sanctuary officials are also encouraging homeowners to take steps to protect declining songbird populations.

“Decorate with special paints, make a string fringe or apply tape strips or a polka dot pattern
the decals make the glass more visible,” the statement read. “The key to an effective window treatment is to space the
treatments close to each other.

People looking to update the glass around their home or business can find product recommendations and tips for applying them to the Fish and Wildlife Website.

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