Saturday, July 10, 2010

War With the Cardinal, Himself

It seems to be a moist gray morning that has come too soon.  I am awake and do not know why, but push off the light quilt and head into my dark kitchen to make coffee.  Soon the water is hot and the smell of liquid amber fills my nostrils.  I take my cup and sit on the front porch trying to shake away the fog from my mind as the rising sun begins to silhouette the tree tops.  I am wondering why I woke up so suddenly out of a restorative sleep as I sip my caffeine and enjoy the pink and blue sky in early dawn.  In a short time my reverie is interrupted.

Crows are in the right side ravine making a brass band's worth of noise in the high poplar trees.  I cannot see them, but their cawing is most annoying and unusually angry.  They are probably ganging up on an owl or hawk that has landed in the woods.  The band of crows will give him no peace until he leaves this area completely.  These home boys own the block and do not give way to anyone without regard for claws and sharp bills.  The crows' weapons are confusion and backstabbing.

I finish my coffee and head back inside.  As I reach across the coffee table to get my paperback, the morning sleep disturbance mystery is solved.  First I hear a tap, followed by tap, tap, followed by tap, tap, tap.  There, at the dining room window, is that newly grown male cardinal.  He is small but has all his adult red coloring.  He bangs at the dining room window flying up to the top until my appearance startles him and he rounds the house away from me and continues banging at the kitchen window above the sink.  He has been doing this tapping at the window for several weeks, and I have been trying to ignore him.  Except now he starts his communication before dawn!

And now there is a new twist as I see the mess on the window he has left.

I watch closely and see him hanging at the base of the window and notice that his mouth is full of some green juicy caterpillar thing.  It is so disgusting I can barely watch on my coffee stomach as it oozes insect life from his bill.  My husband mentioned he had seen a similar meal in the bird's bill yesterday  So, is this cardinal now spreading this mess across my window attempting to feed his reflection?  Is he gay and thinking this is his mate to which he offers a gift of fresh breakfast?  Is he a childless father driven by an instinct to feed that he cannot understand or control?  Or is he a pacifist and thinking this male antagonist (reflection) can be won over by an offer to break bread (bug) rather than fight?  Is he in love with me and wants to bring me gifts so that I will fill the bird's water bowl on time?  My guess is that he is just crazy!  We have that crazy cardinal gene pool thing going in our woods which you can read about here and here.

He is driving me crazy; well, crazier as well!  My windows are now covered in streaks of bug guts.  I had planned on cleaning them a few weeks past and I now pat myself on the back for my wise procrastination in the heat of summer.  Sun-baked bug protein is just what any of my few dinner guests want to see while eating a meal and observing our sunsets through the windows.

OK.  Clearly the day has started with a thrown gauntlet.  I rinse my coffee cup and begin planning a battle strategy.


  1. Ha Ha Ha---love this post, Tabor. You are such a great writer!!!! You say what so many of us think--but cannot say!!! Love it...

    I had the same problem with our female Bluebird --when the babies were in the nestbox. She'd holler and fly right up to the sliding door --trying her best to get that other bluebird (her reflection) to go away from her nest area.... She was so hyper --and we were afraid that she was going to hurt herself. She made so much noise that she scared the other birds away from the feeders.

    Anyhow---we hung an old shower curtain over the sliding door for a few days --so that she couldn't see herself. It worked ---and now that the babies have fledged, she seems okay again.... Weird birds!!!!!!

    I love your thought on the male Cardinal being gay --trying to feed another male Cardinal.... That is hilarious!!!!

    Thanks for the laugh today --although I'll bet you aren't laughing.... I'm sure the Cardinal is annoying.


  2. I very much enjoyed this post! We are endlessly amused by the bird life around our house, but we do have to pay for the entertainment with the endless clean-up.

  3. Oh dear! Mr. Cardinal is clearly in love with his reflection. Poor thing. All I can think is to cover the window in some fashion so the reflection disappears?? Ha!!!

  4. Hahaha:>D
    OK, I know it's not funny, especially the baked-on bug guts. Makes me want to barf. I was reading something about territorialism in male birds recently. The suggestion was made to hang something over the window, making sure you are hanging it over the outside, not the inside. Like Betsy's shower curtain. I think they suggested that a spider web decal works, too. Halloween in July? Maybe you can find a shower curtain with spider web designs on it.

  5. Anonymous11:11 PM

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  6. "Sun-baked bug protein" - I love it! This was very enjoyable to read, although sorry for your frustration. We had similar problems with birds tapping at the windows at our house in San Diego a few years back.

  7. I think he is in love with you and offering you the only gifts he deems appropriate!!

    Now wash those windows and when you are done, come here and do mine!

  8. Ohhh love that bird the colour is amazing and your gorgeous post~!

  9. Ohhh love that bird the colour is amazing and your gorgeous post~!

  10. LOL! What a difficult and hilarious situation, all at the same time! I love the idea that the cardinal is in love with YOU, bringing you gifts in return for fresh water. Kind of like cats bringing gifts of mice, right?

    He is a beautiful bird, what fabulous color! Unfortunately, I bet it is his reflection (in your previously clean windows) that is creating all the havoc. And though I share your aversion to the yukky bug guts (eew!), maybe once your windows are streaked up he won't be able to see himself so well!

    I will be very interested in how this warfare progresses, and I wish you incredible success in your upcoming campaign!!!

  11. Well dried bug guts are a problem, and since he's a guy he doesn't know how to clean windows I'm thinking...
    Possibly one of those cling plastics of a hawk on the window would deter him.
    Have a great weekend, commander!

  12. What on earth is going on? Has he built a nest inside the house? Do you ever leave the window open?

  13. Had a similar problem and hung an old sheet outside the window. Now no more tap tap tapping...

  14. Anonymous3:20 PM

    I had had bright red finches do this several times, but nothing like your guy. Do you think the bright colored bird show up the best in the glass?

  15. Oh, I shouldn''t laugh.

    You are wonderful....bravo.

  16. Oh my goodness, I am so delighted the way you began this post. I adore your writing style. It made me want to read the next chapter. Haha.

    Well, I personally think the bird is just trying to get your attention.

    Great post and I must say that I really like the new look of your blog. Love the beach scene and the blue borders. It really pops.

  17. What a beautiful bird. He wants to come in to see what you are eating.

    When I was in Singapore, a pair of rare hill mynahs came tapping at my bedroom and bathroom. My friends teased me.

  18. RYN: Cave? Goodness. I hadn't thought about it that way. Now I shrink back...I don't like caves. The other two walls in the room are all windows and giant sliders. Lots of air and light. Only that one corner is dark as the two tiny windows and the bookcase close it in. Cave. Maybe I'll get rid of the fussy pillows and see if it grows any..

  19. I once had a woodpecker that woke me every morning by drumming on the window by my head. I tried everything to get rid of it -- rubber snakes, owl silhouettes and so on. Nothing worked. Eventually he got tired of it, or a cat got him.

  20. Yikes, like you I have an iffy stomach first thing in the morning so that would have me recoiling a bit too.

    You know, another thing that works is taping the windows as you would for a hurricane, just kind of a criss-cross messageboard type of pattern with masking tape. It's kind of time commitment but at least you don't lose the light coming in. Four strips per window (guess who had this same problem with those pesky pigeons?) seems to do the trick.

    I hope you get the Red Baron to move on to other points, hopefully somewhere that you can still see him. He's quite pretty.

  21. Now I see....a cave as a delightful place to put up the feed sans red cardinal. :)


    voting time,

    short stories,

    thanks for the attention!

  23. oh, I am laughing out loud! That bird is trying to tell you to get away from his window....I think he may be drying the bugs for later in the fall and know, making a stash for later. SO, if you clean the window you will be helping to make his winter miserable....( I am kidding, to all those you think I am crazy)
    My son and I saw a mocking bird chasing a hawk today, he said he had seen this very same thing happening several days ago. He think the hawk may be after the mocking birds nest....The wonderful world of nature!

  24. Wow, Tabor, this post was just what I needed after the madness of my workday.

    Beautifully written. I could even smell the coffee, hear the crows and you made the red cardinal come alive! Love the photos!!

  25. Maybe we should get our cardinals together. You have the possible narcissist...and, I have the two- timing gigolo!
    Beautifully written post....I so enjoyed reading it.


  26. Wonderful story telling. I had a cardinal a year or two ago that was relentless at banging. I was so desperate that I put up towels over the few windows she would bang on but it didn't deter her. I felt like she was insane. The thing that helped most was the purchase of a fake owl which I had to move around on the porch. I also put a large dinosaur toy in one window hoping she would mistake it for an owl!

  27. Wonderful story telling. I had a cardinal a year or two ago that was relentless at banging. I was so desperate that I put up towels over the few windows she would bang on but it didn't deter her. I felt like she was insane. The thing that helped most was the purchase of a fake owl which I had to move around on the porch. I also put a large dinosaur toy in one window hoping she would mistake it for an owl!

  28. I really can't say it better than the prior commentor.

  29. It's not uncommon for birds to try and defend their territory from a competitor and tap at windows or car mirrors to do so. The bug has me perplexed though. Wonderfully written as always.

  30. He loves you. You're going to miss him when he's gone. :)

  31. I think your Cardinal is bringing you a gift out of gratitude for your bird feeders and water. My daughter's cat brought me dead birds. Now that really upset my stomach and I did not appreciate her gifts at all.

  32. Put a small mirror on the floor of your porch. He should turn his attention to it instead of your windows. It worked for me...


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