This Post Longs to Be Close to 500 Birds

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4821595992_91c744d021_zThe other day I was just starting to work when I heard a strange cooing in the other room. It sounded like a baby. But I swore I’d just dropped the actual baby off at a friend’s house.

When I went to investigate, the baby wasn’t there, so I figured I was having a mild, pleasant postpartum hallucination. I went back to work.

The cooing started again. This time, when I went into the other room, I saw the source: a small gray bird, perched on the edge of a table piled with art supplies.

The mourning dove, for that’s what it was, must have snuck through a small gap in the large window that covers our dining room. It’s actually a greenhouse, haphazardly installed above the table. The window is the first thing that made me fall in love with the house, which seems much bigger than it is because of the light pouring in.

The windows confuse the birds outside, though—occasionally, we hear light thuds against the glass. A few times a year, a bird finds its way in.

My grandparents once had rainbow butterfly stickers on their glass doors, to prevent themselves and their guests from inadvertently walking through the pane. In some places, people have done the same for birds: on the Berkeley campus, silhouettes of raptors line the glass breezeway between the physics hall and a neighboring building.

Markings like this, however, don’t seem to work that well for birds unless they’re taking up a lot of window real estate. Researchers who are testing bird-safe glass say that birds will just fly around the “obstacle” (as did my dad, on at least one occasion in a sliding glass door incident). Some glass manufacturers are working on creating glass with UV-reflective patterns that birds can see but we can’t.

The glass we have is transparent in both the human and avian view. When I tried to gently flush the mourning dove toward the open door, it beat its wings against the panes. A single feather dropped to the ground, and then the bird did, too. It sat under the dining room table, blinking its black eyes.

4775298418_9be712016eI looked up research about birds inside houses on the computer. I found one patent for a bird trapping device. Otherwise, I found stories about superstitions surrounding birds that make their way inside. Most said a bird in the house is a death omen, but elsewhere, I saw that doves are actually good luck. Perhaps I wasn’t asking the right question.

I didn’t hear anything for a while. Then there was an arpeggio of song worthy of Karen Carpenter. When I came out again, the bird was gone.

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(This headline is dedicated to People of LWON Ann and Helen, who kindly suggested I write a 500-bird post after hearing of my trapped bird.)

Images from Flickr users Dawn and Chuck Roberts under Creative Commons license.

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