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This is a hermit thrush.


Photo by William H. Majoros, Wikimedia Commons

It has been a positive clearing house of thrushes in the yard lately, as we had a late Swainson’s in the front, a flock of robins mooching around the back, and for the last two days, Thrush-Bob the hermit thrush patrolling the deck.

Thrush-Bob showed up and promptly began attacking the windows. This wasn’t suicide-by-window, where they plow right into it thinking it’s sky, this is a kind of fluffing scrabbling up-and-down the glass. (The deck windows are those latticed types made up of a dozen smaller rectangles, so we’ve never yet had a suicide-strike–they see the grid and slow down.)

No, as far as I can tell, Thrush-Bob is pissed at the other thrush in the glass.

I am not entirely sure if mid-December is territorial time for a hermit thrush. I am not even sure if thrushes are territorial! But damned if I can think of another explanation, unless Thrush-Bob is flying at the enemy screaming “STOP COPYING ME!” (And hell, bluebirds go house hunting in January, so it’s not that weird, I guess. Or maybe Thrush-Bob is young and trying to carve out his own new territory.)

Kevin finally turned the lights on inside the house, to try and make the windows less reflective. This slowed Thrush-Bob’s assault. Now he simply bounced from railing to grill to potted plant. He runs along the deck (being a thrush) lurks briefly in the miniature rose, up to the railing, runs the railing for several feet, hops on the grill, launches himself into the air, lands in the spicebush, stares in the windows accusingly, then hops down and runs off again.

For the last two mornings, a row of cats has been glued to the windows, quivering with pent up predatory instinct. Even Ben, who believes that hunting happens to other people—who then give it to him, their lord and master—is not immune to the Saga of the Thrush. Several times he has given me a stern look indicating that I should be out there catching him dinner.

Hermit thrushes, in case you’re curious, are one of those birds that are actually increasing in population. Being bug eaters, pesticides are bad for them, but as the forests regenerate in the East, their numbers keep going up. So that’s a nice thought. They seem like such fragile little creatures that it’s nice to know they’re pretty tough.

So, getting back to my particular thrush.

There are only two solutions, as I see it.

Well, three.

A) Do nothing. Wait for Thrush-Bob to move on to wormier pastures.

B) Get one of those hawk cut-outs to scare him away before he hurts himself. I hate to do this, because the deck has the birdbath where the Carolina chickadees and the titmice come to drink. (Heavier birds just plop into the frog pond.) Thrush-Bob is unbothered by these little guys, it’s only the Other Thrush that arouses his ire. I don’t want to scare off my little garden birds from one of the primary neighborhood water sources! (Seriously, we may be the only thing going that isn’t a horse trough for a mile.)

C) Buy mealworms and leave them out for Thrush-Bob so that he can keep his strength up.

I lean toward A, with perhaps a bit of C. The cats haven’t gotten this much excitement since the time the lizard got in.

On the downside, Thrush-Bob wakes up VERY early, and the sound of him savagely attacking the Other Thrush is enough to wake the beagle, who begins baying hysterically because WE WILL ALL BE MURDERED BY THE TINY BIRD OH GOD THE HUMANITY. So we’ll see if I am still feeling so charitable in a few days.


Originally published at Squash's Garden. You can comment here or there.


How about covering the outside of that window in spray-on snow? Festive and the right sort should disappear over time. It should also let light through. Or, old-fashioned whitewash will do the same thing, going more transparent in wetter weather.

Also, I was slightly disappointed that the hermit thrush does not garb itself in some sort of borrowed shell.

Being a bird, shouldn't it use borrowed feathers? One from a crow, one from a bluejay, a few from a starling, and some from the macaw in the zoo...

I vote for A and C, alongside with you.

And let's face it, Ben's right. You should be out there hunting pterodactyls for him or something.

I fear for Thrush-Bob's genetics.

The beagle. Why does nobody heed the warnings of the beagle!

Terrorist Thrush Bob will kill you all with his attacks!

In the matter of birds smashing into windows, we got a little robin flying head first into our lounge bay windows. He was alright, just a bit wobbly and fly away with probably the biggest headache of his young life a few minutes later.
Valium the cat was less pleased and plastered himself to the glass, asking for the treat. I'm a bad mommy, I already save a bat from him last Autumn and now, I don't even let him have the little red candy bird XD

I once witnessed a hummingbird attempt to fly through a porch window covered in clear plastic (no glass, just a 0.3mm layer of plastic air-sealing). It made it half-way through. After we stopped laughing at the poor bird, the homeowner gently grabbed the bird, plucked it from the window, and let it go.

Oh lordy, this happened to us when we were in Arkansas in March of last year. For two hours every day for a week, a male cardinal attacked his reflection in our window, alternating between our rig and the one next to us. RV windows are tinted so we couldn't even dim the mirror effect. Our older cats figured out that they couldn't reach him pretty quick but the youngest never did. Between her body-slamming into the window from the inside and him hitting it with beak and claws from the outside I was sure that she was going to leap out in a shower of glass one morning. She'd try for him until he stopped banging on the window and then sleep the sleep of the justly exhausted the rest of the day.

Pics or it didn't happen: http://www.flickr.com/photos/catlinye_maker/8251872693/

The cardinal only noticed the cats once, and that was when Mister Guy, our older tom, got frustrated and hissed at him, treating him to an intimate view of a gaping maw full of flashing fangs. We had peace the rest of the day that day.

Edited at 2012-12-07 05:01 pm (UTC)

That's a gorgeous shot! The redness of the cardinal, especially :P

Re: That fits (Anonymous) Expand
Yeah, for two days last spring we had a baltimore oriole attack the windows at work. He'd announce himself with the most beautiful sort of warbling sound, and then set about showing that other bird what was what. Mirror-bird kept sassing him.

He gave up on his own after a bit...waiting it out or temporarily occluding the windows might do it?

I believe you're supposed to tell him where the dragon's weak spot is.

Or perhaps vice-versa.

My old office looked out at ground level on a small shrubbery and the space where the housekeeping head parked. For a while, we also had a territorial male cardinal that I named Hank who spent a lot of his day attacking the cardinal in the window.

Then one day the head of housekeeping came to work in her new, bright, shiny, cardinal-red truck, and Hank lost his little birdie mind, spending large swathes of time attacking it and probably feeling very proud every afternoon when he succeeded in driving the giant red cardinal away at the time that the housekeeping staff left.

I'm sure part of it was seeing his reflection in the windows and mirrors--she ended up folding the mirrors in every day because otherwise he'd scratch them up--but no other vehicle inspired the same amount of passion in him, and he scratched the paint up fairly well on the driver's side.

Hank eventually flew on to greater pastures, and I no longer have an office with a window (by choice-I shared that one with others, and now I am ALONE in a windowless office, yay), so I don't get to see the outdoor drama anymore.

At home, currently we have a breeding pair of cardinals (who, alas, raised a cowbird this summer), the female of which seems to be territorial and periodically pecks on the window near the bird feeder, much to the delight of the cats. She peeps a lot while doing it, and we envision her saying "Get away from my man, bitch!" to the cardinal in the window. The male is much more laid-back than Hank was.

If I have a fatal asthma attack, I'm writing your name in my dying phlegm.

Set up a mirror outside, near the window? If he attacks the thrush on the other side of the mirror, and not the one on the other side of the door, perhaps the cats will be still entertained, but the beagle will not be awakened.

Huh. Can you put glare reducing film on the exterior of a window? Because that'd probably work and you could still see outside fine.

Your house is so much more interesting than mine. *jealous*

We had a window attacking male cardinal. We named him Don Quixote. During spring and summer he'd thump into the window as often as once a minute. We never could figure out when he had time to eat and his feathers were so raggedy and broken that we wondered how he could attract a mate. It lasted for 4-5 years. We tried soaping the windows and taping newspaper to the inside, to no avail. He even attacked our garage windows which were semi-transparent.