Bird Brains


Cherie heard something bang against the window. Probably an errant bird, she thought. That happens. But then she heard it again. And then it became a regular steady thumping. What she discovered when she went to check on it, was a male cardinal, throwing himself repeatedly against the window. Presumably he was fighting his reflection.

He’ll either wear himself out or figure this out, Cherie thought as she returned to her desk. But no. This bird wouldn’t accept defeat, instead continuing to fly into the window in a hopeless effort to chase off his reflection.

So Cherie taped a large sheet of construction paper over the window, figuring the bird would relent if he couldn’t see himself. Not willing to be so easily deterred, however,  he just tore down the paper and resumed his battle.

When Cherie told me what was going on, I had an idea. I took a stuffed rooster and sat it by the window.


And it worked. As anxious as the cardinal was to fight his own reflection, he wanted nothing to do with the rooster. The banging stopped. Problem solved.

Temporarily. Soon the bird discovered his reflection in the other windows on our front porch and he resumed his attacks.

We preferred not to allow the foolish animal to beat himself to death, and we preferred not listening to his slow suicide, so Cherie placed stuffed animals from our daughter’s childhood in front of the other windows.



Success. The bird relented, no doubt reluctantly and crestfallen.

After a few days Cherie brought in the rooster and his comrades. And soon thereafter she heard the familiar thump. With the guards gone, the cardinal returned and resumed his attacks.

So the stuffed animals returned to sentry duty and the kamikaze cardinal has moved on.

We don’t get many visitors, so we haven’t had to explain the rooster and his friends.


Last year a pair of barn swallows decided that our garage light would be an ideal spot for a nest. From there they could not only build a muddy nest in which to raise their young, but it was also the perfect location from which to drop copious amounts of swallow poo directly onto my truck.

Because we are soft-hearted bird lovers (in other words, dummies), we let them stay there. Well, let me be more specific. After I destroyed their nest in progress and they laughed it off and continued building, I decided to surrender the point. They built their nest and hatched their young.

Enter Mr. Fabulous, our bad-boy cat. Unable to reach the nest in any conventional way, he cleverly calculated that if he climbed onto the roof of my truck and leaped toward the garage light, he could swat the nest as he flew by, tumbling the unfortunate hatchlings to the garage floor, where they could then be tortured and consumed at his leisure. His plan worked, no doubt delighting him while distressing all others (both birds and humans) who discovered the aftermath of his attack.

Now, a year later, the barn swallows have returned and built a new nest, right on the ruins of the old one. Once again they are steadily painting my truck. Once again we can’t close the garage doors (because, of course, that would inconvenience the swallows). Once again they are in jeopardy of a feline commando raid. I suggested to Cherie that this particular pair should probably be edited out of the gene pool.


Bird logic: “This looks like a good spot to build.”


Bird logic: “This looks like a good place to sit.”

This year they have added two new items to their annoying repertoire. First, they enjoy perching on the stoop above the door that enters our house from the garage (our most used door), with the predicable consequence that we must either step over or step onto a pile of bird crap every time we come in or out of the house. Secondly, they dive bomb us when we come in and out of the garage, despite my insistence that we were here first, an argument they find either unconvincing or irrelevant.


Once the chicks were old enough, I opened the door to the brooder coop and their adoptive mother took them out every day, teaching them to forage. Each night she returned to the brooder coop with them.



This was a little annoying. In the past mamas in this situation have led the chicks to the main coop to roost. We’d never had one decide to just stay put in the brooder coop.

Well, it turns out it wasn’t the hen who was making that decision. She kept trying to lead the chicks to their permanent home, but they weren’t having it. Every night they climbed back in the brooder and she reluctantly followed.

Finally, she refused, returning to the main coop whether the chicks liked it or not. So they parted ways. The chicks, now motherless again, foraged widely during the day, but night after night returned to the brooder coop to roost. This was a new one for us.


Bird logic: “Mom’s gone, but we ain’t leaving.”


Getting evicted


One of the new residents. Future bird brain.

A neighbor gave us some cream legbar chicks, who aren’t old enough for the main coop yet. So the stubborn sex-link chicks were evicted last night. We put them in a cage and carried them to the main coop where, like it or not, they’re going to stay. But I have a feeling it’s not going to be as easy as that makes it sound.