Well — it’s begun. Despite all the rain and cold weather, the robins have determined that it is spring and time to start a family.
First things first. Establishing where they are going to build their nest is uppermost in their minds right now. This can be a little like a lottery for some home owners. If you are lucky, they won’t pick on your yard. On the other hand, if you are “lucky” enough to attract a pair into your territory, there will be no peace.
The first question concerning robin behavior this year came from a niece who lives in Woodinville.
Over the years, the objects involved in robin attacks were mostly windows and cars’ rearview mirrors. But the bird in Carol’s yard is venting his wrath on her grill. He is an example of how shiny objects catch the eye of nervous birds guarding their territories. These males are on edge, and they aren’t doing this because they enjoy smacking into hard objects. This is a stressful time for male robins, who are patrolling their territories keeping an eye out for any other male robin that might try to take over. He doesn’t understand that the reflection is himself. It’s an intruder that must be driven away. These touchy birds won’t give up once they have found where the “other bird” is lurking. They will return over and over, day in and day out.
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If a particular window, or windows, comes under attack from a male robin or chickadees or song sparrows, it can become stressful for a homeowner too. It isn’t pleasant to watch or hear a bird hitting the window. It also becomes very messy. Patience on both sides begins to wear thin.
The first thing to do when an attack takes place is to go outside. View the reflective surface that’s stressing the bird. Covering the window from inside the house doesn’t eliminate the reflection from the outside, the side the bird sees. In Carol’s case, the solution wasn’t difficult. I suggested she cover the grill. I also explained the bird may continue to hang around a while. He suspects the intruder is hiding somewhere waiting to move in. There is also the possibility that he may discover another reflective surface that offends him just as much as the grill did.
Windows are the worst problem — so far. It’s difficult to cover windows on the outside where the reflection can be seen. A few years ago, one reader came up with a solution for windows. There are products in various bird stores, hardware stores and box stores that are designed to do much what she came up with. She called it a “giant eyelash.” Measure the window. Cut a length of duct tape that spans its length. Colored yarn or colored reflective tape should be cut in lengths as long as from the top to the bottom of the window. Attach them to the duct tape and leave enough of the sticky side so it can be folded over on to the other side. This giant eyelash can then be tacked above the window where it will move in the breeze and also break up the reflection the bird is attacking. It takes some work, but it’s effective.
If a car’s rearview mirror is the bothersome reflective surface, move the car for several days. Move it far enough that the bird doesn’t just follow it around. Placing bags over the mirrors might help. Relief will eventually come. Once a nest has been built and the female is on eggs, things start to settle down. The corner has been turned, and in a few more weeks, feeding a brood of young robins will keep the pair too busy to bother about imaginary intruders. Robins are the worst offenders, but other birds are susceptible to this emotional problem too. Good luck.
Write to Joan Carson at P.O. Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org