Birds Attack…Themselves

Shop for window decals to prevent birds from flying into mirrors.

Here’s What Happens When Birds Attack!…Themselves

Accidental bird strikes on windows are a fairly familiar occurrence. What’s not quite so well-known, however, is a bird fighting what it considers to be a rival but is really just its own reflection in a window, mirror or other reflective surface. Whether pecking at its own image, beating it with wings, scratching it with talons or simply flying straight into it, the bird legitimately believes it’s attacking a separate bird. It may be a bit amusing to watch at first – “Hey look, that bird’s fighting a window, how silly!” – but a bird fighting what amounts to air and a solid reflective surface usually results in minor injuries and exhaustion. On their own, these two things don’t sound so bad – but when you consider that an exhausted bird is more susceptible to disease, malnutrition and predators, it becomes apparent that your few seconds of amusement aren’t worth what might happen to the bird down the road. Consequently, birders need to know what to do to protect such birds from their own aggression.

It’s a lengthy list of birds that are given to attacking their own reflections, including goldfinches, cardinals, robins and towhees. Not all of them will attack with the same amount of aggression, but all of them will be much more prone to attack themselves during the breeding season. This runs from as early as February or March to late summer depending on how many broods that particular kind of bird raises during the season.

As this problem deals largely with windows and other seemingly invisible materials, many of the strategies that are effective in reducing window collisions will also work to decrease the instances of birds attacking their reflections. To summarize, the goal is to “break” or fully get rid of the reflection. That way, birds won’t be able to recognize what they see (or don’t see) on the surface as what they would deem to be a potential rival. Strategies for doing so include putting decals on either the inside or outside of the window, arranging material such as tape or plastic in irregular patterns on the window, and adding one-way transparent film to windows.

There are less conventional methods as well. If you observe that a bird is consistently attacking their reflection after noticing it from a given spot, take the time to remove the means for that bird to perch there. If a bird is attacking reflective spots on a car, simply move the car far enough away that the bird won’t come across it.

The last-ditch option is to drive the over-aggressive birds away for their own protection. If nothing else is working, you may just find yourself having to remove a number of houses or feeders in an effort to discourage birds from nesting there and fighting the same stalemated battles with their reflections all over again. It’s a drastic strategy to be sure, but it should do the trick – and you can always put the houses and feeders up again later once you’re sure those particular birds won’t come back.

After you’ve attack-proofed your house, your backyard birds will be glad that they no longer have expend precious amounts of energy or sacrifice their body to fight rival birds that don’t actually exist. Shop window decals at and prevent window strikes. Happy Birding!

Written by Guest Writer Sean Peick

You Might Also Like