Bird Brain Queries Bird Lovers

Monday, October 24, 2005
This could be just a wild statistical outlier but I thought I'd ask here since there are several bird lovers among the Yargbian contributors.

Over the past roughly 15 years I've noticed approximately 10 or fewer instances of birds crashing into windows on my house. It is an unusual event but I've learned the sound of it. It typically, if not almost exclusively, happens in the spring on very lovely days when I've recently cleaned the windows.

I have a picture window at the front and another at the rear that, during excellent weather conditions combined with clean windows (a rarity - I am not a compulsive window washer) produce the effect of being able to look in one side of the house and out the other as if it were a tunnel. All the bird strikes to date (well, prior to the past few days anyway) that I have been aware of are from birds attempting to navigate this "tunnel".

Over the course of the past weekend, however, no fewer than five birds have crashed into windows on my house and only two of those have been into the windows that create the "tunnel effect". The others have been into windows I have never before noticed birds crashing into. (I realize it may have happened hundreds of times that I am unaware of.) This means that roughly one third of the birds strikes of which I am aware have happened in the past 72 or so hours with the other two-thirds scattered over 15 or more years. This is not a case of being home for a larger number of hours or paying any greater than normal attention.

Lest the ladies and gents become overly concerned, these bird strikes almost never result in avian death. IIRC I've only had to bury one of the feathery critter crashers (from window strikes anyway - we won't talk about the one summer I tried to use netting to save my blueberries from the sharp-eyed, feather-wearing flocks). They normally fall to the ground and twitch about dazed and confused for a minute or two and then resume their flighty lives.

If anyone can offer a clue about this I'd be interested to hear it.


Syl said...

It's gotta be global warming.

Somehow. Just gotta. Hasta.

Other than that, I haven't a clue.

flenser said...

Mad bird disease.

Knucklehead said...


I've wondered about that re West Nile Virus or some other thing that makes birds sick or befuddled.

There may be a spike in WNV occurrences in my area. But I have no idea how WNV effects birds in general. Do they get clumsy before they go toes up?

flenser said...

To wander far off topic, I've noticed that there are lots of sick trees in the tri-state area. They all seem to the same type, but I'm not tree-savvy enough to know what type that is. It looks like some type of tree disease is going around.

Knucklehead said...


Not sure which "tri-state" area you're talking about, but in mine there's a "leaf scorch" going on among some oaks. The trees are infected with bacterial leaf scorch, a disease that is hammering on red oaks and pin oaks in Mid-Atlantic states. Insects inject bacteria into twigs, killing them and eventually tree limbs. A lot of limbs coming down these says every time we get a good wind.

Rhododendrons have taken a beating in the dry second half of the summer.

There's aslo some form of grundgy looking thing that I can't think of the name of that creates nasty bulbous looking crap on trees around my neck of the woods that, IIRC, is ugly but not deadly to the trees.

terrye said...

I live in the country and I have seen this before.

Once with a hawk, and several times with cardinals.

Back when I farmed I had peacocks, they are pretty but real stupid.

It might be than when the light is just right they mistake their reflections for other birds and see something threatening.

On odd thing.. I have a client who lives in a very wooded area. The back of his house has a huge picture window. For months a female cardinal would peck at the window, fly at the window and just in general make a nuisance of herself. very odd.

Knucklehead said...

Interesting that you mention the reflection part. I've been trying to figure out what the heck they are seeing and in the overcast conditions we're having recently the windows seem to reflect the trees and sky remarkably well - it may look to them like they're just flying into what's really behind them.

Can't imagine why this is any diff now than normal.

terrye said...

But you can not see what they see.

Knucklehead said...

Nonsense! I see my blueberries and so do they. We may speculate that it is they who cannot see what I see (for example a pane of glass).

ambisinistral said...

I figure it is just this younger generation of birds. Spoiled they are. why, I remember when birds had to fly miles to find a birdbath -- now they're in every other yard.

Rick Ballard said...


Did it happen at a particular time of day? Dawn or dusk? The Italians net small birds at dawn and dusk (for use as antipasti).

A marked change in light conditions (dark overcast) can throw them off too. I had a pigeon come through a window at a cost of $400. It might have been just stunned but it never had a chance to recover.

Syl said...


We've had West Nile around here for a few years now.

It mostly affects crows. The literature we get from the county tells us how to report spotting dead crows.

We used to have so many many crows, then fewer and fewer.

They've started their comeback, though. Noisy things. But fun. There's one who flies around at dawn waking everybody up.

Knucklehead said...


WNV has been around my area for several years also. If I scanned the data correctly there's been a recent and significant (numerically, don't know if is significant as a matter of public health) uptick in detected cases.

Are crows tracked for WNV because they are more susceptible to the disease or just because they seem to be the one bird that is ubiquitous and that nearly everyone can identify?

Crows are noisy but that sometimes helps make some interesting stuff noticeable. It can prove fascinating to go investigate when one hears the crows gettig agitated.

As examples I've gotten to witness an epic battle between an ordinary cat and a bunch of crows. Somehow the cat had gotten its mitts upon a crowling (or whatever they are) and the adult crows were not the least bit happy about it and kept up a prolonged attack upon the cat.

Another time I heard the noisey beggars overhead and noticed a group of them harassing the heck out of a much larger bird (nearly positive it was a common brown owl). That had the look of fighter planes swooping in and attacking a slow-moving bomber.