At my ballsy towhee friend returned to the rose arbor and resumed his attack on his reflection in my den window. I’d hoped the little guy, after a good night’s sleep, would find a more useful pastime, like finding seeds and bugs to eat or maybe romancing an actual female towhee (assuming one will still have him after yesterday’s 10-hour battle with himself).
But no, there he was, feathers puffed against the chill, eyeing the window with true towhee disgust. He hopped from rung to rung, up and down, back and forth, working himself into a snit. And then the first feint – up he fluttered, thwapped that irritating territorial intruder a good one and flapped down again to resume his busy strutting.
I was so fascinated with his single-minded persistence yesterday that I didn’t remember that I had a possible solution to the problem. On the north side of the house we have several feeders and a large wisteria arbor close to the kitchen windows and the living room slider. We discovered early on that the flocks of goldfinches that visited the feeders often couldn’t see the windows, particularly in the mornings. After several of them kamikazeed right into them, leaving the tiny birds stunned, injured or dead, we purchased clear plastic stickers printed with spiderwebs and applied them to the windows. The idea was that birds will avoid spiderwebs if they can. It worked, if not perfectly – we’ve had only a few of them hit the windows hard enough to hurt themselves since.
So I went in and peeled one of the spiderweb stickers off the slider and brought it back to my den. As I approached the window, the towhee flew off. I stuck the fake spiderweb at the spot, about three-quarters of the way up on the window, where he aims his attack. Then I went back to my desk and waited.
He returned. Hopped back and forth a few times, launched at the spot, saw the web, folded his wings before he hit and swooped down to the ground.
Yes! It works! Success!
But then he came back. Hopped back and forth, up and down some more, stopping now and then to trill and warble. You could almost see the little wheels turning in his head. And then he launched again – and hit the window perfectly to the right of the spiderweb sticker, avoiding it.
He did this twice and flew off. Returned a few minutes later, repeated the ritual, hit the window a couple more times, and flew off again. The spiderweb, I think, is giving him reason to reconsider this fruitless battle. I’ve decided that if he comes back again and renews it with the same tenacity he showed yesterday, I’ll just get the other two stickers off the kitchen windows and apply them, as well.
Maybe he’ll give it up, the dope.*The photo this time is very blurry -- the light's not quite good enough yet -- but you can see the towhee in the right-middle of the frame, on a downward arc after smacking the window. Just above the top arbor rung, there's a blurry, white horizontal line. That's the "middle" of the "spiderweb." While the bird keeps coming back for further sorties, they're short and he's staying away for longer periods. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Update: I'm saying this in a whisper. It's 9:52 a.m. The towhee came back and continued his attack, hitting the window lightly to the right of the spiderweb sticker. His heart didn't seem in it, but he kept on. Thwap ... thwap ... thwap, then off to a branch somewhere to rethink his strategy. So I got another sticker from the kitchen and applied it next to the first. When he returned, the little trooper hit the window once, beneath both stickers, but it was a truly half-hearted attempt. He's been gone now for about an hour -- the longest since he started this whole fight yesterday morning, except for overnight. Perhaps ... the war is over.
Update 2: I know, I know. I’m obsessing here. And who cares about a dumb bird? There's a war on out there, and criminals running the government!
Well, I can't help it. You won’t believe this. Not 10 minutes after I’d posted the above update, the towhee was back. And attacking the window, over and over again, just beneath the second sticker. I guess he went off, had a birdie-MRE for breakfast and refreshed, rejoined the battle.
My jaw dropped. I had only one more fake spiderweb, and it was now obvious that he'd just avoid it and find a clear spot.
After watching him continue this mindless activity for a while -- thwap ... thwap ... thwap -- it dawned on me: OK, we’ve established that he doesn’t like the webs, but he’ll just aim somewhere beside or, now, underneath them. So what if... hmmm. I went back to the kitchen, tore a strip of clear plastic wrap about two feet long and brought it back. Stuck it to the window under the right-side spiderweb and wrinkled it, leaving random, horizontal lines that caught the light. Backed off and waited.
When the towhee returned, the extra “spiderwebs” deterred him for about five minutes. Then he thwapped the window to the left, where it was still clear. It’s wasn’t a good spot for him – it’s low and he can’t get much momentum up for the attack – but he still went for it and that maddening, mirror-towhee.
I got another sheet of plastic wrap and put it up next to the first, under the first spiderweb. Wrinkled it to look like cobwebs. Waited.
He came back. He hopped all over the arbor rungs, the watering tubes for the pots and the pots themselves for quite a while, looking for an opening. And I’ll be danged if he didn’t find one. It’s a triangular space about six inches long, perhaps 3 inches wide at the top. He went for it. A soft thwap. Now it was really hard for him to get just the right angle of attack. But after hopping and hopping, sussing out his options, he did it three times before he flew off.
He’s gone again. I’m sure it’s just temporary.