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May 8, 1998

For several days now we have been alternately amused and concerned at mealtime while watching a robin flinging itself at a window in a utility building in our backyard. The strange little bird perches on a nearby fence where it can study the window after each assault, then hurls its little body at the pane again. It seems to flap its wings and peck on the window for several seconds in hopes of breaking through the glass. Then it returns to the fence and sits for a few moments, regrouping and gazing across at the window barrier, regaining some composure before trying the same thing again.

At first there was just that one robin (we assume it’s the same one), but it was there morning, noon and night. Now a second bird, perhaps the mate of the first one, has joined in the peculiar antic and the two of them now alternate in flying pell-mell against the window. Laura and I first thought they would give up after a few fruitless tries, but they’re still at it despite a week or more of those ineffective charges, and we’re beginning to think they are not the brightest little creatures in the neighborhood. They give new meaning to “bird brain.” Perhaps they left the nest too soon. How many hard knocks and battered beaks does it take to convince them they’re not going to succeed?

It occurred to us that they may have built a nest inside the building one day when the door was left open while lawn equipment was being moved in or out, but a cursory examination of the interior revealed no evidence of that. So, they are not trying to raise a family there, or something like that. Then we thought perhaps the birds were seeing their own reflection in the glass and were attacking what they imagined to be another winged invader of their territory. But we have lots of robins and they all seem to be living in harmony with each other, although they scorn association with the mocking birds, sparrows, blue jays and assorted others who feed in our yard. (We personally take care of any starlings that may alight here. They are clapped off and scolded in harsh tones in hopes of deterring them from return trips. It seems to be working.)

But, instead of growing discouraged, the two robins have now added the larger windows on our breakfast room to their incessant attacks, and we worry that one time they just might break their wings, or, still worse, their necks, in the process. Here’s another possibility that I mistakenly thought might have inspired their wrath: We recently discontinued the ritual of refilling the bird feeder in our backyard. This was a popular gathering place for many species of birds this spring, but although we enjoyed having them, we were advised not to continue the practice too long for reasons I don’t quite understand. So, I thought perhaps those two robins were staging a protest against the loss of freeloading privileges. But now I’m told that robins don’t care for bird feed, and that they prefer worms. They are sort of carnivorous.

I don’t know what’s bothering the two robins that continue to hurl themselves at our windows. If they’re demonstrating on behalf of the other birds that no longer have our feeder at meal time, that’s too bad. They’ve had all of that kind of welfare assistance they’re going to get from us until next fall. I just hope those two soldiers survive long enough to realize that we did this for their own good.