Everyone has certain triggers that let them know that spring is here, or at least very close. For some it may be a blooming tree or shrub. It might be the first butterfly sighting of the year. For me, my email inbox lets me know.
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Readers have let me know that territorial male birds, most often Northern cardinals but also Eastern towhees and Eastern bluebirds, are at it again. They are flying at windows and vehicle mirrors, tapping with their bills and beating with their wings. It’s a territorial dispute with themselves, an attempt to drive off an intruder into their established territory. If you have been subjected to this annual rite of spring, you know it will last as long as the hormones keep raging. It can be a few weeks or a couple of months.
It has to do with the reflectivity of the window or mirror. Vehicle mirrors can easily be covered with a plastic bag. Windows are a bit more problematic. Saran Wrap placed on the outside surface distorts the bird’s image and can be very effective. Shining a light aiming out the window can work too. There may be other suggested remedies online. This is a very common problem. You are not alone.
Last week I noticed a fully constructed Carolina wren nest in my garage door opener motor housing. As far as I could tell, just one lone bird built it; probably a male building a dummy nest. Wrens of several species are known for this behavior. Males will build several such nests; the female eventually will pick one and promptly declare it unsuitable and refurbish it to her liking. Or she may just reject them all and decide on a new site altogether.
This wren habit is not fully understood. Theories are the males with the most dummy nests make the best mates, the nests serve to confuse potential predators, or they may serve as claims to all the potential nest sites in a given area.
You might have noticed Eastern bluebirds checking out nest boxes too. They may make a few half-hearted attempts at nesting by bringing in a few pieces of pine straw, but it’s a bit too early for them to maintain enough interest to see construction through to the end. It won’t be too long, though, before they build with urgency.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.