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.

21 comments on “Bird Brains

  1. Ah yes, birds and spring, sometimes a messy combination! We have a cowbird male who sits on the railing upstairs by some French doors and serenades his reflection. Then he moves to the side mirror of my Subaru and splats the door for an hour or two each day. Not the smartest guy in that gene pool, either. I don’t know if he ever gets a mate or not. Probably just as well!

    Good luck with the chicks!


    • Bill says:

      As I type this I’m waiting for it to get a little darker before I go chase down the one chick who refuses to accept the new coop as home. She wanders over to the brooder coop at night, wanting to get back in. Chickens.


  2. BeeHappee says:

    Oh my goodness, this is funny. I am glad you are having so many bird adventures and so many opportunities to strategize! 🙂 Funny how bird brains keep human brains in shape. 🙂 Now your truck is covered with bird droppings and scratched with cat claws. . We have a spotted towhee here who is causing havoc, and I still love him to death. He dances in front of a reflection of a black shiny flower pot all morning. He also dug through all our pots and dug up and ate all sunflower seeds, corn seeds and wheat. I am not sure how they know magically that seeds are under the dirt. They only dig for certain seeds. We put out bird feeders for them, we put out bird baths. No, they find it more interesting bathing in the garden dirt and digging for seeds.


    • Bill says:

      Luckily we haven’t had any trouble this year with crows digging up our corn, but that’s been a problem in the past. In fact, earlier this year I saw crows chase off a hawk that was attacking our chickens. So we’re on the same team now it seems. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like resistance is futile hahaha! Love your good hearts. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Laughing hard here, Bill. We don’t have cardinals out here but I’ve seen them go after the mirrors on our van when we are traveling back East. So I have empathy. I discovered that the cardinals weren’t fighting with their image, however, they were breeding with it. The bird problem around here at this time of the year is with flickers. They like to drum on hollow logs to announce their presence during breeding season. It serves as both a warning to the boys and an attraction to the girls. The louder the drumming the better, from a flicker’s perspective. Fine, except they have discovered that they can make much more noise drumming on the metal vents on our roof! If it is more noisy outside, it is even noisier inside. I chase them off, but they always come back. They are particularly fond of drumming early in the morning. Really early. –Curt


  5. Joanna says:

    That made me smile. Our cats love the birds too, we keep telling them furry things yes, feathered things no, but it doesn’t work I’m afraid. It was the reason one of our cats was on the greenhouse roof a couple of times, probably after the wagtails. Unfortunately she kept coming down with claws out to stop her sliding down the plastic 😦

    Our swallows are back and fortunately a bit more intelligent than yours, they are building their nests in the middle of the alpaca house, where the cat can’t reach them – at least I don’t think so.


    • Bill says:

      Our cat was incorrigible. We had to stop filling the bird feeder because he’d kill the birds that came to eat there. He’s run off again so maybe the birds are safe for a while.


  6. Scott says:

    We had a cardinal doing that in our windows, then he moved to the side mirrors on the cars. I was getting really tired of the poop smeared all over the mirrors and windows. I like your solution!


  7. Laurie Graves says:

    Wonderful bird stories! If ever you write a book about your farm, this post would be ideal.


  8. shoreacres says:

    Oh, the birds. I know about cardinals and swallows — I’ve seen that — but I can’t get over the chicken stories. I should have suspected they could have an attitude, but still… It may be time to drag out my chicken posts again. It’s been a while. That’s one of the advantages of blogging for a decade. Having worn out one audience, you can entertain another with the same material! 🙂

    At the marinas, the swallows build their nests under the floating docks. Since the docks float, the nests always are above the water line, and the parents have a straight shot into the nest. When I first saw them buzzing along, about a foot above the water, at top speed, I couldn’t figure out what was happening. Eventually I heard the babies, and put my head under the dock to see what was going on. There they were. beaks open, waiting for dinner. Amazing.


    • Bill says:

      Last night one chick refused to roost in the coop. She was hanging around the brooder coop but wouldn’t let me catch her. I had to go back out after dark and find her, huddled on the ground near the brooder coop. As I was carrying her home I explained that her behavior would get her killed and eaten. I hope she got the message, but I’m doubtful.


  9. Ed says:

    Maybe once every three or four years I get a cardinal that goes crazy beating it’s reflection. It’s always a cardinal and never another type of bird. Most commonly it is in the mirrors of our vehicles parked outside which is why if you pull into our driveway, you will see empty bread sacks over the mirrors of the parked cars. Occasionally it is our house windows but they typically don’t last long with our outdoor cats. They are pretty good at removing crazy birds knocked senseless on the ground!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually we had a male bluebird doing the same thing on our back porch. It was just a small mirror so I could cover it with a towel — he did find a lady and now they are in the corner of the porch eaves with a nest. They are so beautiful — I can see why he was in love with his image 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      From the comments to this post I’ve learned that our cardinal’s behavior is not so unusual after all. Last week a dove flew into our hoop house and couldn’t figure out how to get out (even though it wasn’t difficult). She kept flying into the plastic wall, knocking out feathers and on one occasion nearly knocking herself out. It took a while but I finally herded her out.


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