You may have noticed birds accidentally striking your home’s windows after becoming confused by the reflected sky and trees they see in them—a real and very large problem for birds in urban areas. But seeing birds attack a window, car mirror, or other reflective surface looks pretty wacky, especially when it is for extended periods of time! What are they thinking? This happens most often in spring and summer, when males are busy fending off would-be interlopers from their territory or their mate, who may be nesting. Even female birds may attack reflective surfaces, though, if they mistakenly think their reflection is another bird who they perceive as a threat to eggs and young in a nearby nest. What should you do about it? If you’re worried about the birds getting hurt, or simply want the annoyance to stop, read on for tips.
Ending window and mirror obsession…
Fortunately, most birds who engage in this behavior don’t injure themselves in the process. But they may become exhausted and more vulnerable to predators as a result of their preoccupation. Plus, they need to spend their time foraging, tending eggs or young, preening, and so on if they are to flourish, so this activity is lost time and energy for them. Likewise, if it’s an annoyance in some way for you, it’d sure be nice to make it stop. Here’s a bevy of things you can try to block or break up the reflection they’re attacking, all of which have met with success in similar situations:
Options for house windows:
- Put a little distance between where the bird typically perches and the window. This may mean trimming a few branches; just make sure you don’t trim any branches necessary to the support or safety of a nest.
- Affix something as simple as a piece of cardboard temporarily on the outside of the window to prevent the problem.
- Install netting or a non-reflective screen outside the glass for a longer-term fix.
- Create stripes or marks on the window with a bar of soap.
- Arrange strips of Mylar® tape or plastic across the window.
Options for autos and their reflective surfaces and accessories:
- The easiest answer is to put some distance between the bird’s usual perches and the reflective surface or accessory. If you are able to park a little further away from your usual spot, that may be far enough outside of the territory to stop the activity.
- Trim branches from which the attacks are being launched, but again, only if they are not needed for nest support or cover.
- Tie a plastic bag over the side view mirrors or accessory when the car must be parked in that spot—just be sure to remove the bags before driving.
- Temporarily affix Mylar® tape to the reflective surface or accessory to prevent this activity and add or move tape around in response if it continues.
- Use a car or auto cover to remove the reflected “intruder” all together.
The good news is that this behavior is usually short-lived. If you can ignore it, that’s often the simplest solution, because once the breeding season is over, the territorial tendencies wane. Otherwise, one of the above solutions should help you and your birds relax a little, so you can both enjoy your respective homes and yard in peace!
What’s up with the dive bombing?!
Another seemingly wacky bird behavior is dive-bombing. Reports crop up every spring—birds are swooping down upon unsuspecting humans as they come and go from homes or buildings. Often people imagine they are under attack for no reason. What’s actually happening is the person has unwittingly walked too close to an active nest, causing a parent bird to defend their young with a close fly-by as a warning. It’s often a mockingbird, but hawks, owls, and other birds may do it, too. What to do about it? Well, all native birds are legally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so you do not want to harm the birds in any way, nor remove the nest. The parental swooping will stop as soon as the nestlings can leave the nest, usually in under a month. Meanwhile, if you can, use another entrance. If it’s a public building or you receive visitors often, use yellow tape to detour people away from the nest site. If it’s just you and your family and you must use that one entrance, wear a hat or carry an umbrella, which should keep the protective parent bird from coming too close for comfort. As more natural areas are built up, birds have no choice but to live in closer proximity. As you try your best to be accommodating, it may help to remember that the parent birds are simply trying their best to protect their young.