Optics Mag is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Read more.

Why Do Birds Fly In Front of Cars? 4 Possible Reasons

Last Updated on

common nighthawk flying

Although birds have keen vision, you can frequently notice them flying in front of cars, and you may wonder why this is happening. Birds have tons of bizarre habits, including flying in front of cars, which is sometimes intentional and sometimes just an accident.

Flying in front of cars can be potentially deadly for birds, and unfortunately, in the US, 83 million to 340 million birds are killed by flying into a vehicle1

This article will provide more details about this unusual behavior.

hummingbird divider

The 4 Main Reasons Why Birds Fly In Front of Cars

There are various reasons for birds flying in front of your car. Sometimes, they do this as a defense mechanism, while sometimes, it happens by accident. Below, we’ll discuss the most common reasons for this habit.

1. They don’t understand reflections

Birds don’t understand reflections, so when they see the sky or trees reflecting on a car, they think it’s a passage where they can get to the other side. Car windows reflect everything around the vehicle, which is not great for birds. Since they also reflect the sky, many birds will likely get confused and think that that’s where they should be flying.

Many birds will fly into a car thinking they are flying somewhere safe and away from predators.

hummingbird flying isolated from background
Image Credit: Veronika Andrews, Pixabay

2. They are acting defensively

Birds are overly protective and defensive, especially if they think their young ones are in danger. When they notice cars, especially if their nest is near, they will believe that the vehicles are predators, trying to scare them away.

Birds are so defensive that they would fly in anything in front of them just to ensure their young ones are safe. When birds do this, they will likely fly in front of the car, circle around it, or dart right at the vehicle.

Also, since birds don’t recognize reflections, if they see themselves in the windows they might think it’s a rival bird and try to attack it.

3. They are flying low

To preserve energy and stay safe, many birds will fly low and therefore fly in front of cars. If they fly higher, they would become easy prey for larger birds and spend way more energy than they do while flying low.

Also, larger birds will likely fly low to find food or capture their prey which puts them in danger of colliding with a vehicle.

There are also bird breeds that prefer to fly lower, while they can also fly lower when bad weather is approaching and the air becomes less dense, making flying more difficult.

crow flying low over dead grass
Image Credit: Mabel Amber, Pixabay

4. They do it by accident

One of the most common reasons birds fly in front of cars is pure ignorance. Birds can be pretty slow thinkers and can find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since they can’t think quickly, this becomes a deadly combination since they are unaware of reflections and don’t know how to maneuver through high traffic.

hummingbird divider

What should you do if birds fly in front of your car?

Since you know that birds fly in front of cars you should also know how to react in those situations. Here’s what you can do to avoid hitting birds with your vehicle:

1. Slow the car down

Suppose you notice a bird coming your way while in a vehicle, simply slow down. Then even if the bird hits the car, it won’t get injured, while you’ll also remain safe inside. Although this is a common-sense recommendation, we need to list it.

Once you pass the area and notice there are no more birds around you, you can go back to driving at your usual speed. Also, when birds see you are driving slowly, they may not consider you a threat, and they will hopefully fly away.

Car Driving
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

2. Take a different route

If you need to go through a route with a lot of birds, it might be best to take a different route. Of course, just because a road has birds doesn’t necessarily mean that they will fly in front of your car, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

If you cannot change the route, simply follow the first advice, and drive carefully and slowly until the sky is clear.

3. Use a windshield reflector (while parked)

You can use a windshield reflector, although this solution only works when your car is parked. Since your vehicle reflects sunshine and lights, birds won’t know that it’s a car and might think it’s a passage where they can get to the other side.  That’s where a windshield reflector comes to the rescue.

It’s an inexpensive way for birds to know that your car is not something they should be flying at, and they will try to avoid it.

windshield reflector
Image By: _M galleries, Shutterstock

hummingbird divider

Are birds going to attack me if I get out of my car?

If birds are flying in front of or next to your car, and you get out, they might try to attack you, especially if you’re near their nest. As we already mentioned, birds are overprotective when it comes to their young ones, so if they sense their babies might be in danger, they will go above and beyond to ensure they’re safe.

In this situation, it’s better to remain in the vehicle and safely move the car away until there are no more birds around you.

What should you do if you hit a bird with your car?

When you hit a bird with your car, the chances of it surviving are small, although it’s possible that the bird will only be injured if you drove slow enough. You can reach out to a vet or a wildlife rehabilitation specialist to inspect the bird and see what’s happening.

If the bird flies off, or it’s able to fly, it might be best to leave it alone since it can recover and survive without help. But, if you see the bird is not moving or seems injured, there are things you can do to help.

While you wait for help, take the bird somewhere where it’s quiet, dark, and warm. That way, you will keep the bird away from predators until it gets the needed medical attention. If the bird is dead, put on gloves and move it away somewhere where it can decompose naturally.

hummingbird divider Final thoughts

Birds flying in front of cars is a typical bird behavior, regardless of the reason behind it. Unfortunately, many birds will not survive a collision with a vehicle, but as a driver, you should do everything possible so that the ride goes smoothly for both you and the wildlife around you.

By simply slowing down and being careful, you can prevent these occurrences and possibly save many birds’ lives.

Featured Image Credit: Rob Palmer Photography, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.