Bird on bird violence

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Two days ago, while sitting at my desk attempting to be a productive human, a noise broke my focus and nearly broke my window, too. 

The third “donk” against the glass made me look up from my monitor, expecting to find a tree branch bumping the window. Instead, I came eye to beady eye with a bird flying straight at me. Of course, he didn’t get close because we were separated by glass – a fact he seemed painfully unaware of. 

When he donked into the glass a fourth and fifth time, I got up to look closer, but he kept plowing head-first into the invisible wall. After each impact, he fell to the window ledge below, shook off the shock, and flew back into the small tree to begin another staring contest.

In more than a decade of working in this room, I’ve never seen this happen before. I called my friend Shannon, who has rescued all kinds of critters from calamities. 

Me: “Hey, a bird keeps flying at my office window and hitting his head against the glass. It’s so bizarre. What should I do?”

Her: “Hmmm… Do you have an owl statue you can put in front of the window?”

Me: “I’m fresh out of owl statues. Would a stapler work?”

Her: “Maybe you could tape a piece of paper to the outside of the window and let the bottom flap in the breeze to keep him away.” 

I considered it but was scared to step onto the bird’s turf and get dive-bombed for a crime I didn’t commit. The deliberate donks and the sound of flapping wings and bird feet scraping against the glass had already unnerved me. He chirped a lot, too, which I interpreted as the bird equivalent of trash-talking. 

I took a video of these repeated kamikaze missions. Then I texted it to my bird-loving teenage daughter, asking her to investigate possible causes. She sent back a screenshot of a paragraph posted on All About, which said, “When they (the birds) see their own reflection in your window, they assume they’re seeing a competitor and attack the image.” 

Ah! Suddenly, it made sense. This wasn’t about me at all. This was about the bird. I imagined the internal dialogue in his bird brain:

Bird: “Hey. Hey! Are you eyeballin’ me? You want a piece of me, mister? Because I will mess you up!”


Bird: Wow, this guy is tough (and oddly familiar). I’ll try harder.”


Bird: “Did you just smack me in the beak? That’s it. I will end you right here and right now!”


Suddenly, I felt compassion for this determined, dazed little robin. He was railing against a problem that didn’t even exist – literally beating himself up over and over. 

I do it, too – attack my own character for a long list of ways I’m not “good enough.” It’s weird how we beat ourselves up for the crime of being an imperfect human. We’re so sure that we are the real problem instead of accepting that life doles out troubles to each of us. 

Instead of comforting the oddly familiar person in the bathroom mirror, we turn our vicious judgment inward, hoping it will somehow make us better or stronger. But there’s a fine line between self-discipline and self-cruelty. And how can we promote kindness in the world when we don’t even do it for ourselves? 

Speaking of compassion, I found a way to help that little robin so set on self-destruction. I remembered a small garden flag that my mom displayed last September which had an illustration of an owl on it in rich fall colors. I dug it out of storage and taped it up inside the window. 

The bird immediately flew to the ground and skittered back several paces, walking back and forth as he reassessed the situation. After a few moments of staring into the owl’s yellow eyes, he flew away, and I haven’t seen him since. I suppose he realized that there are bigger threats out there than a hazy reflection of a little robin just like him. I’m glad he didn’t keep hurting himself because I wasn’t sure what the concussion protocol is for a bird. 

Here’s hoping we all find a way to stop banging our heads against the proverbial wall —to stop punishing someone who knows us so well and has been on our side all along.

Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at Her book is available on Amazon. 

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