Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Birds Attacking Cars

Sometimes birding involves watching rare or unusual birds that we don't get to see all the time.  At other times, it is fun to watch common birds do interesting things.  During the spring male cardinals and robins are very territorial, and so they try to attack and drive off other males—including those they see reflected in car mirrors or windows.  

I've spent a couple hours lately watching a cardinal attacking cars and trucks at a gravel lot in a wooded area that is used mostly in the evenings.  The lot is in the middle of a cardinal territory, so when the cars show up, the male bird spends a lot of time looking for and finding potential rivals in the reflections of the mirrors, windows, and even well-waxed car exteriors.

Here's a slow-mo video of what a cardinal car attack can look like:

video

It's a lot of fun to watch.  But not perhaps if it is your car and the bird is attacking it every day, and even pooping all over the doors or windows.  What do you do then?


  • Car Cover--The best solution is to buy a car cover and throw it over the entire car so the bird can't find and attack any reflective surfaces.  
  • Move the Car--If you don't want to be bothered with the expense or trouble of putting on a car cover, perhaps you can park elsewhere?  Watch the bird to see how far it is traveling to defend its territory and perhaps you can park farther away where it won't be bothered by the car.  If your car is parked within sight of trees and bushes where it is singing all day, you will be a sure target for car attacks.
  • Cover the windows or mirrors--Watch the bird and see if it is attacking its reflection in the mirror or in the window.  That will tell you which reflective surface you need to make non-reflective.    You can cover side mirrors with plastic grocery bags or windows with a tarp or anything else.  Some folks just rub the mirror (or the window) with a bar of soap--though then you would need to wash off the soap with a rag every time you use the car.  You can also fold the mirrors in towards the car so he can’t see it, that should get him to move along as well.  

If you are lucky, the hormones only make birds do this for a month or two during the breeding season, so it won’t be something you will have to live with forever…just when the weather gets nice, and the birds get busy!  But some birds will have two or even three nests over the breeding season, so it could go on for a several months.

4 comments:

  1. I had the misfortune of walking under a tree that had a Northern Mockingbird nesting in it. A little thrill for the morning:)

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  2. My friend, Celeste and I just had this happen with a Hooded Oriole at Molina Basin on Mt. Lemmon in Tucson last week. She is the one who suggested that we cover the windows; not for my car's sake, but so the bird would not exhaust or injure itself. She told me of a situation where a red-winged blackbird got its foot trapped between the mirror edge and the mirror cover and died there dangling. I quickly got out a sweater and a shirt from my car and wrapped them around the mirrors. It was well worth the small amount of time it took me to do this.

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  3. We've had at least one male cardinal that has attacked our car mirrors and windows year-round for two years. We cover our car side mirrors with plastic shopping bags but that can be even more damaging if it rains in summer and the hot sun bakes the plastic bags onto the mirror housings. And it's not exactly convenient when trying to leave for work and it's raining like heck and you have to remove the bags which are tied on. Not sure why anyone says they attack only during "mating" season because it's all year round. And we have quite a few male cardinals around. Maybe they're all doing it. Haven't seen any other types of birds attack the cars. Just the stupid male cardinals that bloody themselves by pecking at their own reflections. When we first moved in to our house, a female cardinal would slam into our master bedroom window. That happened for several years until she disappeared. Not sure of the life expanse of a cardinal, but I hope this one is gone soon enough. The red-tailed hawks tend to go after some of our songbirds. We tried the "rubber snake" idea to deter the cardinals but that just upset the hawks who then poked holes in the snakes. Nature.

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  4. I got a piece of kakena and put it on top of the mirror. The smell ran them off eventually

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