Patient of the Week: Varied Thrush Crashes into Window

By Ashley Lema, Wildlife Rehabilitator

On January 22, we received a Varied Thrush from West Linn, Oregon. The good Samaritan found the bird after he hit a window. They then placed him inside a paper bag, leaving him alone and somewhere safe for about an hour, something we recommend folks do in case the bird is just stunned. After an hour had passed, the bird was still unable to fly away, so the good Samaritan knew he wasn’t just dazed or disoriented, and had likely suffered an injury from colliding with the window. Window strikes are one of the most common causes of injury for birds in our care, and across the country can kill up to a billion birds in a year.

During our initial exam, staff found that the bird had difficulty breathing and a swollen eye with damage to the cornea. We have treated the thrush with fluids, pain medication, anti-parasitics, and eye drops. After a few days in care, his respiratory issues cleared up and we were then able to safely take X-rays while the bird was under anesthesia. We found a fracture in the bird’s shoulder blade, also known as the scapula. The thrush will be on cage rest for a few weeks while the bone heals, and will continue to have eye check-ups with our veterinarian. 

One big challenge for a wildlife rehabilitator can be getting our patients to eat. Between the physical pain from their injuries, and the stress from being handled daily by people who are seen as predators in an unfamiliar environment, sometimes an animal will refuse to eat food. For some patients, we have to tube feed them multiple times a day to help them maintain their body weight as they recover. His time on cage rest will also create a need for flight conditioning once the bone has healed, as birds often lose muscle mass and strength during prolonged treatments. This guy has a long road ahead of him, but we are hopeful!

The Varied Thrush being tube fed specialized slurry.

Varied thrushes are robin-sized birds, typical of the far west, breeding in evergreen and mixed forests along the Pacific coast. They are common but elusive, and like to be near dense cover or forests. (They are regulars at our Wildlife Sanctuary in NW Portland if you want to see one in the wild!) They hop around, mainly foraging on the ground or low shrubs/trees. They use their beak to toss leaf-litter aside while searching for insects (beetles, ants, crickets, caterpillars, snails, earthworms, spiders, etc.) In winter, their diet also includes berries/fruit and seeds/acorns.

Why Do Birds Hit Windows? And How Can I Help?

  • Birds cannot perceive windows as barriers, and sometimes see the reflection of trees or the sky and think it’s a continuation of habitat, not a solid barrier. Because of this they often fly at full speed straight into our windows. Nearly half of the birds will die on impact, others can be lucky and only become stunned for a short period of time and can fly away soon after the strike. Many birds suffer injuries such as neurological damage, fractured bones, eye trauma, internal bleeding, air sac complications, etc.
  • Nearly half of all window strikes happen at residential homes, or most commonly within the first 3-4 stories of a building. As Portland grows, the risks to birds also increase. You can help by minimizing the incidence of window strikes at your home or business. Click here for more tips regarding DIY solutions, naturescaping, decals/window film, netting/screens.  
Bird imprint left on a window after a collision.

What to Do If A Bird Hits Your Window

  • Observe from afar so as to not stress the bird further. Some window strike victims recover quickly and are just “stunned.” However, in this state, the bird may be vulnerable to predators. If possible, you can gently cover the bird with a towel, and place them in a shoebox or other container you can secure, then place them somewhere quiet and safe.
  • Wait 1 hour, then attempt to open the box outdoors. Hopefully the bird will be alert and be able to fly away. Do not try to throw the bird to get it to fly; this can cause more injuries than they initially had. If you did not contain the animal, check back in an hour or two to see if it’s in the same area.
  • If the bird doesn’t fly away, the best thing you can do is contain the animal in a securely closed (but ventilated) box and keep the animal quiet and undisturbed until you can transport it to your closest wildlife rehabilitation facility. Do not offer food or water.

Here at Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center, we accept new patients from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day. You can also leave a message on our Wildlife Hotline at (503) 292-0304 or email and one of our solutions counselors will get back to you and provide advice for your specific situation. 


Unfortunately due to COVID-19 we had to operate our Wildlife Care Center this past year with about 20% of our normal staffing and with about a 25% increase in our annual patient admissions. We were left with the difficult but necessary decision to discontinue providing follow-up updates on patients brought into our center so that we could focus on the daily care of the animals. And while we simply cannot write a story about each animal, our goal for this fresh and bright new year is to show you what we can: in the form of a weekly patient update! Check in every Thursday for our “Patient of the Week”; with information on the species, the circumstances that brought the animal in, and preventative advice so you can be a better steward for our wildlife!

If you’d like to contribute to the Wildlife Care Center, please consider making a donation here. Your work helps us to save lives.