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.”