She's Baaaa-ck ... The Window-Whacking, OCD-Afflicted Cardinal Is Up To Her Old, Annoying Tricks

A cat sculpture at a skylight fails to deter the crazy cardinal from repeatedly slamming into her reflection. Lisa Brownell

As challenging as this past season has been, what with constantly stoking the wood stove, shoveling snow and ashes, and having to bundle up like Nanook of the North, I enjoyed one aspect: Silence from the nutty cardinal that spent countless hours almost every day last spring, summer and fall slamming into windows around our house.

Evidently the bird, which nests in nearby evergreens, was either too busy all winter scrounging for nuts and seeds, or, like the rest of us, too blasted cold to waste energy on such bird-brained activities.

As loyal readers will recall, no matter how many times my wife or I taped paper over our windows to eliminate reflections, the cardinal kept interpreting its mirror image as a rival bird horning in on her territory, and slammed into the glass from dawn to dusk.

At first it was kind of amusing, once I realized the cardinal hadn't injured itself, but after a week or so its behavior evolved from mildly annoying to extremely irritating, especially when the banging and high-pitched whistling started in before 5 a.m. By fall the inside of our house looked like a dungeon because of all the papered-over windows, and all it took was one sliver of exposed glass to provoke a

barrage of attacks that reverberated throughout every room.

Don't get me wrong. I like birds, especially barred owls that hoot, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all" in the middle of the night; osprey and red-tail hawks that circle and swoop; turkey vultures that glide with the thermals; wild turkeys that trot along forest paths, great blue herons that stand like statues along the water's edge; jays that serve as woodland sentinels and cry out warnings of human intruders; curious phoebes that flit from branch to branch, wagging their tails, crows and ravens that squawk raucously, nuthatches, finches, sparrows, orioles and so many other feathered neighbors. I'm even fond of the wily catbird that repeatedly raided my blueberries last summer until I finally thwarted it with netting.

I feel much less affection, though, for the crazed cardinal.

First of all, on a superficial level, the female has dingy plumage compared to the crimson male, who uses his flashy color to attract a mate.

Which leads me to ponder: Is this the best you could come up with? All that preening and you wind up with an obsessive-compulsive spouse who spends all its spare time slamming into windows.

I can imagine her starting a conversation:

"Dear, we're running low on seeds … Do you mind flying over to the garden and bringing back a few for dinner?"

"OK, in a little while … I'm right in the middle of arranging these twigs for our nest."

Ten minutes later: "You know, I asked you to get some seeds, yet you're still fiddling with the nest…"

"I know, but if I drop this now the whole thing will fall apart. Give me a few more minutes."

Another 10 minutes: "What! You're still working on the nest?! What happened to my seeds?"

"I told you I'm busy right now! Why can't YOU go get the seeds? What are you doing all day?"

"What are you talking about?" I've been knocking my self out, literally, keeping that other cardinal from taking our spot?"

"What other cardinal? That's your reflection in a window!"

"Don't tell me what I saw! I know what you're up to …"

Now that I think about it, I haven't seen much of the male cardinal lately. Maybe he finally flew the coop.

Anyway, this spring we've been experimenting with different cardinal deterrents, and even placed a large, wooden sculpture of a cat peering menacingly out one skylight. You can see from the accompanying photograph how well that worked.

So I guess we'll just have to learn to live with the banging and whistling for a few months.

Or go back to living in a papered-in dungeon.

It could be worse, I guess. We could be besieged by a cape buffalo, rhino or wildebeest, so we should count our blessings.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Death in the White Mountains: Recklessness and The False Security of GPS, Cellphones and Locator Beacons

After being battered by 70 mph winds, blinded by whipping snow and nearly frozen in temperatures that plunged to 20 below zero and beyond, Kate Matrosova must have realized early on she had no hope of completing her solo climb of four of...

You Never Miss The Water Till The Well Runs Dry — Or The Pipes Freeze

After shoveling a path to the woodshed the other day for the 138th time this season (or so it seemed) and lugging what certainly felt like the 862nd load of logs to the house and the 243rd bucket of wood stove ashes to the distant pit,...

Hey! Wanna Ride? Detroit Distance Walker James Robertson Shouldn't Look A Gift Car In The Hood, But ...

You no doubt have heard about James Robertson, the 56-year-old Detroit man who for more than a decade walked 21 miles a day to and from his factory job because he couldn’t afford a car.

Blizzard Be Damned – A Great Day To Enjoy The Outdoors

With blizzard-force winds whipping great clouds of snow across the frozen lake and waist-high drifts piled above 2 feet of still-accumulating powder, the only question was: Snowshoes or cross-country skis?

Kill The North Stonington Mountain Lion! (And Other Phrases I Hope People Never Utter)

Every time there’s a report of a dangerous, predatory animal prowling local woods or waterways I fervently wish that two things don’t happen:

A ‘Frozen’ Moment: Don’t Let It Go

This week’s cold snap has spread a shimmering, silken coating over ponds and lakes throughout the region, creating some of the best conditions for skating in years, so you must get out now and enjoy it because who knows...

Hey, It’s Winter — Deal With It! Embrace The Cold, Snow And Ice

First of all, it’s way too soon to start whining about the cold. Let’s all agree that by March, if we’re still getting hammered by ferocious winds, driving snow and frigid temps, then a little complaining might be in...

Eagles, Seals, Swallows, Mountains, Rapids: You Can Never Have Too Much Fun

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that people, even — make that especially — hard-core adventurers/endurance athletes tend to set the bar way too high: bike across the country, qualify for the Hawaii...

Brace Yourself For The New Year’s Day Run-Swim

When those uninitiated in the longstanding New Year’s Day tradition of running from Mystic to Fishers Island Sound and leaping into the icy water ask, "How can you stand it? Doesn’t it hurt?" we stoic veterans...

Two's Company, Three Hundred's A Crowd – On The Trail Or On A Sidewalk

While kayaking the 341-mile Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany a few years ago I spotted another paddler a mile or so away headed in my direction. Having encountered only one or two other kayaks nearly a week into what turned out to be an...

Wouldn't It Be Wonderful To Hibernate?

When I pried a rock up with a mattock the other day, rushing to finish a small retaining wall before the ground froze, I inadvertently disturbed a hibernating spotted salamander’s winter home.

Happy Days Are Here Again: Cheap Fuel And Gas-Guzzlers!

Isn’t life great?! Gas is so cheap now I can get rid of my puny, poky, fuel-efficient econobox and get behind the wheel of an auto with plenty of ponies under the hood that any American would be proud to drive, just like the good...