Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I like birds. Back when I was getting a degree in geography and environmental studies, I had an internship at a nature center in Michigan. We had a barred owl named Joey that we used for educational programs. I nursed an American kestrel back to health and saved a batch of baby blue jays. One of the happiest parts of my winter is watching the juncos foraging outside my window.

But birds are sometimes the stupidest creatures I've ever seen.

A couple of years ago, we had a fledgling male robin that flung itself against the picture window in our basement. Repeatedly. We'd hear a tap, go peek around the corner, and there he'd be, fluttering up to the picnic table and launching himself at the center of the window. Then he'd fall to the ground and rap his beak against the glass, hard, a few times before starting again. He did this over and over and over, for hours, and it went on for weeks. The window was filthy. Some of the dirt smears were wing-shaped. He eventually stopped, after he got old enough for us to tell that he was male. I figure he got brain damage and couldn't find his way back.

Fast forward a couple of years. I'm sitting in my office, and I hear that distinctive thud-click. Thud-click. I go peek around the corner, wondering if our robin is back, and guess what? No! It's a CARDINAL this time. He flies at the window half a dozen times and stops, and he always stops when we go peek. So I guess he's a *little* smarter than the robin.

I had to do a term paper on starlings for my ornithology class in college. I was so proud of myself when I figured out that they wiped their beaks on the branches of the trees to scrape off the dirt from digging for worms and bugs. I got that paper published in The Student Scholar. So I'm not completely ignorant when it comes to birds. I assume these guys are trying to court or attack their reflections or something, but I can't figure out why it never stops.

Anyone out there a birdwatcher with some insight into this?


Geri Krotow said...

I've read they think they're flying into the sky, because they see the sky in your windows. Grey day=dirty windows. Or they are crazy.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

That would make sense if it only happened on gray days, or at certain times of the day with the sun at a certain angle. Or if they did it once, or if the window was high. This window is at ground level (we have a walk-out basement) and there's a big table in front of it, and it's blocked by a tree to one side. They have to WANT the window.

Cardinals like to hang out in the evergreens at the corners of our house, so this guy probably has a nest nearby or something. But it's not like he's expecting to fly a distance. The robin in particular would peck at the window in between throwing himself at it!

So crazy sounds like the probability. LOL

Ava Quinn said...

I think certain birds carry a deep down hatred for your basement window. For repeated attacks to happen on the same window, it must be pretty evil. It probably deserves it. The birds are probably just trying to warn you.

So watch your back.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Ooh, evil window. I bet you're right! It IS warped!