A close encounter of the bird kind

Long-tailed tit Bob Coyle

Is there anyone out there who can come up with a plausible explanation for a little bird going from window to window seemingly trying to get in?

“Come here! Look at this” said my wife. Dutiful as ever, I trotted from the kitchen (lately my natural habitat) to see a small bird flying around – not at – the window. To all intents and purposes it was looking for a way in.

It flew back to a branch on the cherry tree, scrutinised the window then had another go.

Long tailed tit

Long-tailed tit (John Hughes)

It flew off. Then, to my surprise, exhibited the same behaviour at the kitchen window. Weird.

“What is it?” she asked. “It’s a long-tailed tit” replied the expert naturalist, “I’ve seen a few in the garden recently”. Then she floored me; “Why is it doing that?”

I had to admit I had no idea. Birds flying into windows is fairly common, it even has a technical name – bird strike. Every year I’m amused and amazed when I find the ghostly outline of a pigeon that’s had an all too close encounter with one of my windows. Individual feathers are visible, just like a perfectly preserved fossil.

Some birds, such as wood pigeon, produce tiny particles of “feather dust” from the downy feathers close to their skin. These tend to be birds without a preen gland and the dust helps keep their feather in good condition.

All very interesting, but it doesn’t answer the question about my long-tailed tit. Fortunately we live in an age where the sum of all human knowledge is at my fingertips and I have come to expect 29 million results in 0.7 seconds, which is exactly what I got.

Through the window

Through the window (John Hughes)

Google told me about birds colliding with windows. It told me about the spiritual significance of same – I can recall my grandmother telling me someone was going to die if she heard a bird hit the window.

It listed the films where birds play a menacing role (The Core, Dark Skies and , der, The Birds) but it didn’t explain the behaviour of my long-tail save for a lame idea that it’s attacking its own reflection.

So, it’s over to you. Is there anyone out there who can come up with a plausible explanation for a little bird going from window to window seemingly trying to get in?

John Hughes

John Hughes: Development manager

John Hughes

Shropshire Wildlife Trust