I was sitting in my studio working on projects and playing online spider solitaire, when I heard a bump, bump, bump behind me. Zerlina was asleep, no one else was home, and the wind wasn’t blowing. The bump sounded vaguely familiar, but before I could place it I turned around and discovered the source: a robin was attacking its reflection in the window.
I understand it from the robin’s point of view – there he was, flying peacefully toward a tree outside a window, a good spot to build a nest, when suddenly another robin appeared flying straight at him. Outrage! He attacked! And immediately, the other robin attacked him exactly the same way! Intolerable!
Fortunately, the noise woke Zerlina, who jumped up onto the table under the window. The robin, finding a cat apparently in the tree, backed off. But only as far as the next window. Thus began my spring ritual, carrying my cat around from window to window following the robin, holding up my pointy-eared would-be slaughterer to dissuade the bird from knocking itself out against my windowglass.
Zerlina doesn’t really like to be carried around, but she does like watching birds. She glanced back at me as if to say, just let me out there and that bird will never bother you again. An indoor cat now, she remembers her days on the street.
How many generations will it take for birds to understand windowglass? Surely there’s a survival advantage to not flying smack into them on purpose like this, beating your brains out and wasting energy on something that’s no threat at all instead of getting on with life, building a nest, or finding a mate, or singing. What kind of ridiculous species would do something like that?