Every year about this time, certain species of birds take to banging on our windows. The two most common culprits are cardinals and robins. The robins are the dirtiest and the cardinals are the loudest.
Same old thing this year. The pecking on one of our big windows began in late February and when my wife threatened to take out the shotgun, I decided to try a couple of milder remedies. I had an old owl garden sculpture in the tool-shed, so I hauled it out and sat it next to the window. Birds are said to be afraid of owls, but my nemesis, a very red cardinal, wasn’t impressed by a plaster owl and went right on pecking. Next, I went to Toys-R-Us and bought a four foot long rubber rattlesnake. Birds are supposed to be afraid of snakes too, but my cardinal all but ignored the snake on the grass under the window. So, I taped it right on the window to look as if it were climbing up the building. That worked for about half-an-hour, but soon the cardinal was right back, slamming into the window next to the snake.
We’ve all heard about bird invasions in some towns and most folks have seen Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds in which they about pecked Tippi Hedren to death. I had a similar experience in Fairfax County Virginia. Our new house had been empty for about a year and I guess the robins decided it belonged to them. They would gather on the deck in front of the sliding doors and peck and peck and peck and until the plaster on the decking and handrails was with white excrement. One of them even built a nest in the space behind the bottom of a hanging wreath and the front door. We didn’t know it was there until a rather tall party guest spotted it from above.
Also at the time we had red-headed woodpeckers whacking away on the metal chimneys, three of which were connected by metal flues to metal fireplaces below. The birds would start their banging right after dawn and the sound would reverberate all over the house. Finally, I called Animal Control and they told me to hang plastic strips around any glass expanse. I did, and that stopped the birds…with the exception of a piliated woodpecker that pounded a hole through to the siding into the attic.
I was a correspondent at the White House at the time and even there the battle of the birds went on every day. A loudspeaker was installed in the big magnolia tree in the front yard and it played awful, screeching sounds. That did shut the birds up for little awhile. Their squawking made doing stand-up TV reports on the front lawn rather challenging. Our cameraman discovered that if he would slam two empty VCR boxes together, it sounded like a gunshot and the birds would shut up for long enough to do the piece.
I’ve done some reading up on chasing birds and what I have discovered is that it is a cottage industry. There are all types of inventions from ultra-sound machines to motorized whirly-gigs to taping Saran Wrap on the windows. But the very best is either long strips of plastic hug over the window or fruit netting…that stops them entirely. Now, if you are a bird lover don’t call me to complain, I’m trying to give them a chance…otherwise it’s the shotgun.
Editor's Note: No birds, snakes or Tippi Hedren were harmed in the writing of this article.