On a warm morning in May as I was getting ready to leave for work, I noticed a male Bluebird sitting atop my bird feeder. I waited inside and watched him hop from the feeder, which is next to my driveway, onto the edge of my car window near the side rearview mirror. He kept jumping off the window ledge and hovering in front of the mirror, flapping his wings and tapping it with his feet, before coming back to rest. He repeated this several times. I quietly snuck outside, grabbed my camera and a long lens from my trunk, found a good position a few feet down my driveway, and waited. He flew off into the nearby tree when he spotted me, but came back a minute later to resume his attack. He continued for several minutes as I fired away.
A few days earlier I had heard a segment on NPR’s Birdnote Moment about this very behavior when birds see their reflection in a mirror or window. The segment explained that the birds think the reflection is an intruder moving in on their breeding territory and they try to scare it off. Birders recommend that if you see this response, known as “battering robin syndrome,” that you cover the reflective surface that causes the bird to feel threatened, as some birds will do it to exhaustion. To read more about this fascinating avian behavior, read the transcript of the Birdnote installment by Frances Wood: http://www.birdnote.org/show/american-robin-valiant-challenger
Coincidently, Courant photographer Michael McAndrews found an identical situation in a parking lot at Riverside Park in Glastonbury this week, but with a male Cardinal on the offensive. “I immediately thought of your picture,” McAndrews said when he told me about his find. “This bird was pretty messed up because he had so many cars to choose from,” he said. The Cardinal was flitting back and forth attacking his reflection in multiple car mirrors. He finally gave up the fight after several cars left.