Oil-Based Paint Markers: A Fun and Affordable Way to Stop Birds From Hitting Windows

Fall bird migration is just around the corner, and millions of birds will be making a perilous journey through our cities on the way to their winter homes. You can help make this journey a safer one by acting now to prevent deadly window collisions at your home.

This post will walk you through how to use oil-based paint markers to create your own bird-safe window treatment. Oil-based paint markers are inexpensive (one marker covered an entire double patio door as well as a smaller window, with paint to spare), hold up well to the elements, and are simple to remove when needed. In this example, we have turned our windows into a magical, bird-safe garden, with flowers and vines for our feathered friends. However, the possibilities are limitless! Treat your window like a canvas and use any theme or pattern you like, as long as the pattern is:

  • closely spaced (do not leave any gaps greater than 5 cm or 2 inches)
  • high contrast (white generally stands out well on most windows)
  • on the outside surface of the glass

Learn more about why these guidelines are important.

What you’ll need

  • Oil-based paint marker (we used a white, medium-sized Sharpie, available on Amazon and many stores including Staples, Michaels, Walmart, and Home Depot)
  • A window cleaner that will not leave a residue, and lint free cloths to dry


  • Stepping stool for ease of access
  • Stencils or designs to trace to add embellishments

Before you get started

Clean your windows with a window cleaner that will not leave any residue, and make sure they are completely dry before you begin.

Step 1: Prime the marker

Carefully read and follow the instructions on the marker. You will likely need to prime the marker by shaking it and depressing the tip over some scrap paper to get the paint flowing.

Step 2: Draw wavy lines of varying length

Draw wavy lines of varying length down the length of the window, approximately 15 cm or 6 inches apart.

Step 3: Add leaves to create vines

Add leaves (or flowers) to the wavy lines to create hanging vines. We chose to do a variety of simple leaf and flower shapes, but you can stay as simple or get as creative as you like.

Step 4: Add embellishments to fill in any gaps

Once your vines are complete, it’s time to fill in any empty spaces with fun embellishments to ensure there are no gaps of untreated glass greater than 5 cm or 2 inches. Again, you can make this as simple or complicated as you like. We chose to include a flock of chickadees among the vines, and taped images on the inside of the window to trace (download and print the chickadee designs here). We filled in the rest of the window with small dots, circles, and starbursts, to add to the ‘magical garden’ effect.

Note about removal

If you make a mistake or want to change/freshen up the design, you can use any acetone nail polish remover to easily remove the markings from the window.

Birds need your help now more than ever. Try this fun and budget-friendly activity today to help protect birds from a leading (and easily preventable) cause of death.

Disclaimer:  BirdSafe and FLAP Canada do not endorse or recommend any commercial glass product or manufacturer; therefore, mention of commercial products on this website cannot be construed as an endorsement or recommendation. Results may vary depending on conditions such as landscaping, topography, building design, lighting, local bird populations and the condition of the product itself. No window solution can guarantee elimination of bird-window collisions.

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