Jamie Odone, who writes and illustrates children’s books about honey badgers, moles, and other wild creatures, was getting a bit wild over a creature that was visiting his pickup truck recently.
A robin was accosting his truck’s mirrors and windows, and leaving lots of calling cards in the process.
This may be another example of that common spring phenomenon in which a bird sees a phantom invader within the nesting territory it is protecting. It other words, it sees itself, but doesn’t know it’s itself.
The attacks most often happen with house windows that happen to be near where a bird couple, often cardinals, robins or sparrows, is nesting. However, a car mirror is even more of a problem to a protective bird because it reflects a very clear image of the robin. Car and house windows may be not so clear, or they may depend on time of day to produce the right reflections.
Jamie’s robin was doing more than pecking on his glass. It was pooping on his pickup.
The bird has been “sitting on a car for a few days and it won’t go away,” he wrote. “It has been flapping and pooping all over the driver’s side door and window. My car is literally covered in [poop].”
I had suggested placing a rubber snake on the car where the robin hangs out. Jamie did even more. Instead of a snake, he used several rubber lizards and covered all side-view mirrors on his pickup truck with plastic bags.
“When I put the bags over the side mirrors, he coated my truck’s bed,” Jamie said of the pooping problem. The bird also shared its bounty with Jamie’s neighbor’s car.
What can you do about a bird that is that persistent about protecting its territory from a car apparently parked close to its nest? All I can think of is park elsewhere, get a giant drop cloth to cover the car, or be patient till nesting season ends, maybe in a few weeks.
A century ago, a person being annoyed by a robin might have shot the bird dead. Today, strong laws protect birds.
By the turn of the 20th Century, several species of native wild birds had been virtually annihilated by people killing them in huge numbers for their feathers or for food. Feathers were in huge demand to decorate ladies’ hats. The Passenger Pigeon and Carolina Parakeet are now extinct, and the Eskimo Curlew and the Snowy Egret were nearly killed off.
To help stem the slaughter, Congress in 1900 passed the Lacey Act, banning the shipment across state lines of birds illegally taken from the original state. The law was strong, but there was little enforcement due to lack of agents and an abundance of profits that could be made.
To beef up protection of wild birds, Congress created the Weeks-McLean Law in 1913. It declared: “All wild geese, wild swans, brant, wild ducks, snipe, plover, woodcock, rail, wild pigeons, and all other migratory game and insectivorous birds which in their northern and southern migrations pass through or do not remain permanently the entire year within the borders of any state or territory, shall hereafter be deemed to be within the custody and protection of the Government of the United States, and shall not be destroyed or taken contrary to regulations hereinafter provided therefor.”
Because of a technicality, the Weeks-McLean Law was susceptible to constitutional challenge, so in 1918, Congress passed The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, designed not only to end the commercial trade of wild birds and their feathers, but also to ban the possession of their eggs or nests. This act is very specific: Unless permitted by regulations, one cannot “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, ship, cause to be shipped, deliver for transportation, transport, cause to be transported, carry, or cause to be carried by any means whatever, receive for shipment, transportation or carriage, or export, at any time, or in any manner, any migratory bird, included in the terms of this Convention . . . for the protection of migratory birds . . . or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird.”
The list of birds protected by the act is long, including just about any species you are apt to see around here — except the few birds that never migrate, such as wild turkeys or ruffed grouse. Even crows and vultures are protected.
The law allows states to regulate the hunting of migratory game birds, such as ducks and geese.
Spring Migration Bird Walks: Bring binoculars and/or a camera, no charge or RSVP required, Saturdays: April 28, May 5, 12, 19, 26, meet in Audubon Greenwich parking area at 613 Riversville Road, 203-869-5272 x230, greenwich.audubon.org
Birding by Ear, indoor discussion of how and why birds vocalize, plus recordings, then outdoor walk to practice, Saturday, May 5, 9:30 to noon, $15 adults, kids free, Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, 203-869-5272 x230, greenwich.audubon.org.
Spring migration bird walks, Tuesdays or Thursdays from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.: May 1, Maple Avenue, Katonah; May 3, Bylane Farm, 35 Todd Road, Katonah; May 22, North County Trailway; Bedford Audubon, www.bedfordaudubon.org, 914- 232-1999.
Canoe Trip on the Great Swamp, Patterson, N.Y. with Dr. Jim Utter, migrating birds, Saturday, May 12, 8 to noon, $39, Bedford Audubon, 914-519-7801 [email protected], www.bedfordaudubon.org.
Copyright 2012 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] gmail.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.