I work part time for the National Park Service (although, we’ll see what happens this weekend if there’s a federal government shutdown) and our visitor center is located in the Science Museum of Minnesota. Last week, I noticed a familiar site as I passed the museum’s fleet of vehicles.
An American Robin was perched on the side of one of the Science Museum vans. I saw this several times last year, but never when I had my spotting scope and camera with me. This year, I was ready. Fortunately, I was in my park ranger uniform so the staff wouldn’t be too worried while I was digiscoping in the general vacinity their vehicles.
The robin was fighting its reflection against the van windows. The bird made his way to several of the vehicle windows, fighting an unreal foe for his territory. Robins aren’t the only bird species to do this, a quick google image search will find several species fighting reflections on car windows and mirrors including Northern Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, Northern Mockingbirds and Yellow-rumped Warblers.
This is one of the toughest birding situations to deal with–whether it’s on a car or a home window. Some get upset when the birds attack the windows to the point of injury leaving excrement and blood on the pane. Others find it annoying to have the sound of birds fluttering and smacking the window. It’s distressing and sadly, there’s no easy solution.
The most effective strategy is to find a way to block the reflection…for several days. If a bird is fighting its reflection over a period of a few days, it has grown accustom to finding a “rival” in its territory. When it’s on patrol, it’s ready for a fight and looks for it from window to window. Covering the windows on the outside with a newspaper or sheet for 7 to 10 days can help and break the bird’s habit of coming to the window looking for a fight. However, as the sun angle changes throughout the day, the birds can just fight a different reflection in the window. After being cooped up in our homes all winter, the last thing most of us want to do is block our windows.
According to FLAP, there’s a film called CollidEscape you can place on the outside of the windows that won’t diminish your view too much and prevent birds from hitting the window. If it works as well as the photos suggest, this could be a great solution.
Another idea is to put up a net over the outside of the window that prevents the birds from coming in contact with the glass. Effective, but time consuming.
Sometimes rubbing soap on the outside of the window can help, but that washes off in the rain. There are decals that can be placed on the outside of the window but I’ve had limited success with those. There’s also the reflective mylar tape that supposedly scares birds away with it moves with the breeze. Oh and there are fake owls…which rarely work because birds figure out that the statue doesn’t move.
I’ve seen a product advertised to keep woodpeckers off of your house called Attack Spider. It’s motion-sensitive and when it detects movement or tapping, a big hairy spider drops down and shakes. It does this for a about a minute, then winds up, ready to go off when a bird approaches and taps. I could see that working for home windows, but would be impractical for a vehicle.
How about you? What have you tried that stopped a bird from fighting its reflection in windows?
And if you have a robin fighting its reflection in your window, remember (as we say in Minnesota), “It can always be worse.”
Well written Sharon, and timed also.
I love this post, Sharon. Not only is it extremely helpful, but it also reminds me of when Amy Hooper and I went birding Upper Newport Bay. We got to her car to find a Song Sparrow going berserk on itself through her rear view mirror. Once the battle was over, the scene of the crime was grisly!
Great article and shots.
I admit, I was wondering what that white stuff on the car is. Foam? Then it dawned on me. Snow….
No pun intended, just have been in the desert too long 😉
For the cars: How about one of those car cover things?
Keeps your car from getting dirty and the bird(s) from getting injured?
For the birds at home windows, I was thinking along one of the motion sensor things too. We had a noisy frog once (back in civilization with a garden,…)
Or simply have something fluttering down your window, like a few strings with some strips of cloth?
Very timely, since we’re dealing with this at home. Robins can be very persistant.
We had a very angry robin attacking our window for several days. We came home yesterday to a lot of blood, and poop on the window and no more robin… any ideas if he actually died attacking the window… or just left?
I just experienced this situation with a pair of robins, but I don’t think it had to do with their reflections. (n.b. I posted this very anecdote at another thread [blue robin eggs] before I found this one.
Do robins eat eggs?
The reason I ask, is that for three days in a row (from dawn till dusk)a pair of robins kept repeatedly bumping against our living room window, clearly trying to get inside. In the room on the table (and visible from the window) was a large bowl of brightly colored faux Easter eggs. I removed all egg facsimiles from sight and the robins finally gave up trying to get in half a day later. Before this, I had tried chasing them away, but to no avail. I cannot explain their behavior otherwise.
Guess I could have tested my hypothesis by leaving a real egg outside the window, but I really did not want to encourage their continued loitering and nuisance at my window.
In my case I really don’t think it was their reflections causing the behavior. It doesn’t make sense — to me anyway — that both the male and the female took turns at this “fighting” as the female is smaller, so I’d assume the male would do the territorial fighting (Sorry if I am seeming to be sexist here). In addition, the birds were doing this from early in the morning until after sunset, as well as on a rainy, cloudy, dark day. Moreover, once I removed the eggs from sight, the amount of bumping against the window decreased significantly and the male just sat perched right next to the window for long periods of time, looking in, between attack on the fenestration. Also, the fact that they kept coming back after I would AGGRESSIVELY chase them off, suggests to me that it was about more than a phantom interloper in their territory. I think they really wanted those dozen big, bright eggs.
I really do hope it was the eggs, as I was near my wits’ end and was about to escalate matters. If my hypothesis is correct, perhaps some of these other cases also involved birds seeing what they believed to be a food source on the other side of the window.
Hi Egg Man,
That is an interesting theory, but robins do not eat eggs like blue jays and crows. Females of some species of birds will engage in territorial battle, robins and cardinals both. If the eggs were what was causing the attack, they may have perceived them as being from a predatory bird nest like a crow, hawk or owl and were hoping to find something to mob.
I’m not completely on board that the robins were trying to get to the eggs, I bet they were seeing some sort of reflection, even on a cloudy day and that they have either decided to nest elsewhere or focus on chicks in the nest.
I’ll defer to you and other more aviary folk than myself. It turned out that the very next day after posting my query and egg-eatin’ theory that the robin pair came back in the morning and got jiggy with the window again. This disheartened me because the window being attacked is two stories high and fairly wide; I didn’t want to have to put a tarp over it or hang shiny things on ribbons up there either. I kept the shade shut that day, the bird(s) on hit the window for a short while and then left, coming back to hit some more in the late afternoon. Their attacks continued to taper off an stopped completely after a few more day. So the ordeal lasted about a week.
It does seem possible that they thought the Easter eggs belonged to an encroaching bird pair.
P.S. The egg theory came to my mind because it started up two or three days after the Easter eggs went on display.
i have this robin who will not stop fighting my living room window. Its one of those widows that are placed like 12 feet high and is shaped like a half circle arch type of windows. He comes back everyday, sometimes every 15 min and attacks the window for about 4 minutes each time. The poor bird has no clue what hes doin is aggravating the hell out of me when im home. Ive got the impression that this wont ever stop. Being that i just moved into this home, im trying to think of ways of ridding of this bird, “Without killing the thing!” but im having trouble coming up with any CHEAP solutions.
The window is too high to put anything in front of it and has such an awkward shape to it that its not fit for any kind of curtain. So please, tell me what the hell im suppose to do.
I was thinking of making a web of fishing string in front of the window on the outside so that damn bird gets caught in it. I wanna capture the thing and stuff him and put him on my mantle.
This is so Edger Allen Poes story of that damn raven upset my bird of reckage happen to be the pretty Robin.
We’ve got the same problem. Crazed female cardinal going after several windows on different sides and heights on the house. It’s my impression that she is on a schedule which suggests time of day or angle of sun matters. She starts at 7:05 at the bedroom window. One window has streaks of blood and feathers! Been happening for 2 weeks. Today I am draping black mesh deer fencing over the outside of the window. Wish us luck. Will let you know… ( Love the scary drop-down halloween spider idea. 😉
Robin came back. After a full week of window attacks we bought a large plastic owl and hung it outside so it is in the center of the window. I see the robins in the tree, but thet won’t come near the owl.
I have the exact same problem… This beautiful cardinal is attacking my car mirrow and windows.. The poor thing is hitting it so hard that it is leaving blood and black smudges all over the place. I would hate for it to hurt itself but it is not starting to get annoying having to clean my car everyday… Any suggestions??
Did you not read the blog post? There were actual suggestions listed on what to do in it.
Read all about the frustration everyone is experiencing! I had the same problem with a female cardinal all day yesterday and again starting this morning. While I was gone my wife stopped the attack of the cardinal’s image in the window: She sits right next to the window because there is a feeder attached there. She also does cross word puzzles a lot. So when the winged girl kept at it, she simply struck near the bird with her crossword puzzle book each time the bird started her attack. Guess what? The bird stopped and never came back. The moral of the story: fight birds with words!
Hello! I am really glad to come across this website. My family has had a large Robin attacking- and I mean attacking- our living room windows for days now. My husband power washed the blood and poop off of the window sills to find them covered again 3 hours later. This guy will attack for hours at a time. We thought for sure he did himself in but he must have left for a couple of hours because he came back for more! I am releived to know that this is normal behavior. I was worried that our Robin friend may have been sick- you never know what crazy new disease is going around. Thank you!
Glad to see (in a way) that others are having similar problems…..my bird is a finch, and he’s been going at my window for ALMOST TWO MONTHS with no signs of stopping permanently. In order to let the sun in for my plants inside, I had to tape a large piece of styrofoam over the upper center window area, and a piece of cardboard over the top part of each side of our living room window. It stopped him going for the window, but we see him constantly hanging around the eaves, rain gutter, and bottom sill. He seems to just be attacking on the top 1/3 of the window area, and will often perch on the screen portion on either side as well. I tried several days of waving him off with a drapery rod every time he flew up, but I would have to keep at it about 5 to 10 minutes before he would take a big break. He always came back within a couple of hours. Our dog started lunging at the window in annoyance as well, after a couple of weeks, but tho’ the finch will retreat at his lunging & barking, he always flutters back after a few minutes. I left the styrofoam/cardboard mix up for two weeks, and just took it down two days ago…….TAH-DAHHHHH…..he’s back to attacking the window…..so I have now taped up material across the top third of the window area, and hope it works….at least it’s a little more decorative than styrofoam and cardboard!!!!! I have to say, regardless of what the supposed reason for this behavior is, it reminds me of the definition of “insanity”: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results! They obviously don’t get it!
A paper on the topic of birds interacting with their reflection has just been published in Ornithological Observations, a semi-scientific e-journal published by BirdLife South Africa and the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. The paper also features a reference to this post! You can download the it here http://oo.adu.org.za/content.php?id=83
I took hand held mirrors and screwed them to trees close to the bird house and feeders. This gave the bird a foe closer to home to worry about. Now he leaved my car alone.