Suburban Bird Drama

We get a lot of birds around our house in the ‘burbs. I’m not an ornithologist by any stretch, but the longer I live here and the more birds I see, the more I learn about them.

My interest was piqued last weekend as I was getting ready to make huevos rancheros for Sunday brunch. I was banging a few pots together when I heard a thunk and “eek!” from upstairs. I ran up to see what was going on and found Martine in the bedroom all bug-eyed, saying that a bird had crashed into the patio door and then another bird had come along and carried it off. We looked around, and sure enough, there was a bird perched on a TV antenna about 60 metres away with what appeared to be a dead bird dangling from its talons (the fact that our neighbourhood is full of TV antennas is a whole separate discussion).

I grabbed my binoculars and saw that it was a small bird of prey–later identified as a merlin–and he had what appeared to be a dead mourning dove. Speculation from a birding friend is that that the merlin deliberately chased the dove into the patio door.

I ran downstairs and got my camera. It doesn’t have a long lens but I figured maybe I could crop the picture and get something faintly interesting. I came back upstairs and as I was getting the camera ready Martine said “It’s gone!”

I looked over and sure enough, the the TV antenna was empty. A second later I see the merlin flying straight at us at top speed, still clutching the mourning dove. It was being chased by two other birds (unidentified). A second later, just before the merlin crashed into the patio door, it pulled up “top gun” style and whizzed over the house, passing over our heads by just a few feet. It still had the dead dove in its grip.

Not a chance of getting a photo. Everything happened too fast. So I went back to my huevos rancheros knowing Martine and I were not the only ones eating well in the neighbourhood that day.


The mourning dove left quite an impression.

7 thoughts on “Suburban Bird Drama

  1. Thank goodness you were both safe inside, it’s dangerous outside the city! :) Growing up, we had a huge dining room window that birds always flew headlong into. As a result, we often had pet birds with wings on the mend in the house.

  2. $985…
    This is what it is going to cost me this spring, to replace the two thermal windows broken by birds under the same circumstances. It happened within one month difference early last fall, but I was too lazy, busy, cheap, whatever, to fix it then. So we spent the winter with tapes on the windows, tape specially made for this purpose, but tape anyway.

    We are partly to blame, because we feed the birds; when birds of prey come, the prey scattered all over and some of them try to fly through the windows. The little ones like the chickadees, nuthatches, yellow finches, etc. are not much of a problems, they just go pock! It’s the bigger ones, like the mourning doves, the woodpecker, jays that go crack!

    There are a few solutions, the easiest is to place the feeders, less than 2.5 feet from the window, so there is not enough momentum to cause any damage. It has the advantage of letting you see the bird very close, but it is quite messy.

  3. Zura, really? I always figured once a bird broke it’s wing it was toast.

    Sales Guy; geez, what kind of birds were they? Albatrosses?

    Thanks Natalie! If you like that one, check out this “ghost bird” photo I took in 1998.

  4. In certain light, windows act like mirrors and if there’s an equally large window on the other side of the house, it looks like a tunnel. You can hang something like cutouts, decals, blinds or curtains on the inside to give them the perspective they need. But if a hawk attacks, especially if the feeder is close to the house, …

    You can find a more detailed description in: Window Hazards.

  5. Many years ago in my parents house, we had problems with sparrows hitting the big windows that we had tinted. The sparrows could see reflections of themselves on the glass and probably thought that they were being held captive and were trying to rescue their “friends. We would hear thuds for many days on end until one day it just stopped on it’s own.

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