Nature Close to Home: Why Do Birds Attack Their Own Reflection

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Dave Woehr Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist

WARREN COUNTY, OH -- Intoday's column Dave Woehr answers a question:

Dave,

We have a robin that seems to have lost it’s mind. I thought you might have some insight into the workings of this bird brain. We have two sliding glass doors that face our backyard and woods. We, occasionally, have birds fly into these and sometimes knock themselves out. For the past 3 or 4 days, we have had a large robin fly into the glass doors almost constantly. Today, I watched it, and it sits on the deck railing, flies straight into the door, falls to the deck, and walks up to the door and stares in. I noticed that the deck railing and deck in front of the door are covered with droppings, so it has been spending all of it’s time doing this. I thought the problem was solved this morning as this activity attracted a large hawk that swooped in to grab the robin. The robin somehow avoided capture and soon resumed flying into the glass. Any idea what is going on? Avian Alzheimers perhaps?

Paul


Paul,

We're coming up on mating and nesting season. The robin is a male. It sees its own reflection in the glass and thinks it is another male. It is trying to drive the "other" robin out of its personal space / nesting territory. Cardinals do this, too, and probably other birds as well.

Click on the above picture to read more on why birds attack their reflection
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