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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

how to: stop an attacking robin (and save his life)

Our deck looks like a disco. It didn't always. It's not exactly the look we were going for.

It started with a thump.


Thump. Thump.


Underneath my desk, my dog my dog was curled up, dreaming.  She woke from her sleep, looked in the direction of the noise and looked up at me. "Let's go see what that is, buddy," I said to her as we walked towards the kitchen.

There it was. A robin, a little disoriented. He was shaking its head side to side on the deck, in front of the sliding doors. He saw us, flew away in a circle and came right back, barreling full speed ahead  into the sliding glass door. I opened the door and the dog and I stepped outside.  Everywhere on the deck, on the railings, on the floorboards, on the furniture were piles of dark purple bird excrement--lots of it. We saw him, sitting in the tree, staring at us. We stood there for a moment, soaking in the rare Seattle sunshine and stepped back inside, amidst a little pile of fluffy feathers.

Thump. Again and again, he flung himself at the sliding doors.

I sat at my desk and started searching "robin flying into window." It turns out that we weren't the only ones dealing with this issue. Every spring male robins protect their mates, nests and eggs. It's a short period but during this time, they will make every attempt to thwart competitors advances. What our robin was doing was seeing his reflection in the window. They don't give up so they will repeatedly make every attempt to get the challenger to fly away. I read the remedies:

- Try soaping your windows with swirls from a bar soap
- Cover your windows (on the outside) with sheets of cardboard to block his reflection
- Place reflective decals of falcons or hawks on the windows
- Cut strips of aluminum foil and tape them to the windows
- Print out a picture of the face of an attacking cat and stick several of them to the window
- Get a cat

We soaped the windows. Didn't make a difference.

We went to Wild Birds Unlimited and bought reflective hawk decals. Didn't make a difference. At Wild Birds, the bird expert did tell us that if we don't fix this problem, the male robin will keep attacking his reflection until he is bloodied and possibly dead.

We attached strips of aluminum foil to the windows. (This experiment caused L. to burst into laughter when he got home from work. "Are we in danger from aliens?" he asked.

We printed out attacking cat faces and taped them to the windows. Nope. Didn't make a difference except to scare the hell out of the dog and I.

We didn't get a cat. We didn't attach cardboard to cover the sliding glass doors.

Here's what we did do and it worked:

L went to a party supply warehouse and bought silver mylar party streamers. On Saturday, we attached several sets of streamers to the beam across the deck and let the wind blow. Problem solved. It's now Tuesday and it seems that the softly blowing silver streamers distract him enough to not fly through them and it breaks his focus on the windows. There's no bird excrement, no feathers, no blood. A big win for shiny silver party streamers. Now, our robin can enjoy his time with family, rather than dealing with his big, bad, mean reflection all day.

We have one little problem though. Early this morning as I was doing a sun salutation in the sunshine,  I saw two crows sitting on a branch mesmerized by the shiny silver strings. I think I saw the female's thought bubble say "You know, our nest would look pretty fancy in silver. Darling, think you could make it so?"

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