backyard birds: paparazzi are not welcome

In the past, hummingbirds and mourning doves have made nests in my backyard. I’ve loved watching them. Maybe a little too much. I tend to stalk them like paparazzi. Which may account for the fact avian house hunters have begun avoiding my place. Until now.

This season, I successfully lured a pair of something-or-anothers, probably not the accepted International Ornithological Committee name, to the hedge outside my kitchen window. With great restraint, I even managed to leave them alone. At least for the first few weeks. But finally, the dam of my self-control burst. I approached stealthily and there they were! All fluffy, and pin-feathery, and wide-eyed! Oh, the preciousness of it all!

Today, I was outside working on a project (more on that in a bit…). Mom and dad were nearby, chittering away. I thought maybe they wanted me gone so they could feed the chicks, or maybe to warn them to lay low because a stalker was in their midst. Finally, the adults took off, and I sprung into action. Just one more peek.

…and maybe a quick photo.

I was surprised to see one small, but fully feathered bird sitting on the edge of the nest. Had mom or dad snuck back? I needed to get just a Little Bit Closer…

VROOSH!

In an instant, four (not three) babies poured from the nest and scattered, successfully negotiating fences and bushes and then, gone!

I was horrified! The babies left while mom and dad were out foraging! They’d come back to find the whole lot missing, an avian version of Unsolved Mysteries.

But then, I thought, they did all fly. None fell to the ground. As my horror gave way to logic, I realized that’s what mom and dad had been doing all day: trying to convince the kids it was time to leave home. Apparently, birds don’t accept that message any better than your young adults.

Nevertheless, I sought the expert opinion of Dr. Katie LaBarbera, who knew a lot more about birds, and probably a lot more about a lot of stuff, than me. She assured me all was well. Apparently, this is a common occurrence in the world of ornithology.

Over the past weeks, I’ve come to realize as much as I love nature, I’m not very good at nature. The other day I heard one of those unmistakable thuds against the French doors in the kitchen. I didn’t want to look, but when I did, there it was: a very tiny yellow finch with a wing at a bad angle.

I kept an eye out, as slowly, he retracted its wing, a good sign. I wanted to grab him, but the poor thing was safe from predators and it was a temperate morning. In a rare act of restraint, I gave him a chance to recover on his own, which, eventually, he did.

When birds move into my backyard, I pester them. When they pass through, I maim them. I might not be able to change myself overnight, but I can change the environment.

I looked up preventative measures, and I found one inexpensive solution which was to paint vertical lines on glass doors and windows. Apparently, birds think it’s a fence, so they steer clear. I ordered a white Posca pen and spent an hour working on my faux fence. Below is the result from inside and out. The keeping-your-windows-clean thing is a bit problematic. If I wash the windows, the lines come off and I have to start the whole process over. (Oh, who am I kidding? I don’t wash windows.)

So, three simple rules for hosting all of the backyard birds that will likely relocate from my yard to yours. Provide refreshment. Offer respect. Do no harm.

Oh, and leave the whole paparazzi thing to Hollywood.

Update: The lines are working great! The birds have stopped smacking into the doors and so have I.

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