Monday, May 9, 2016

Bird Brain

Literally! And demonstrably earning the denigration implied in the name.

Near as I can tell, after pouring through the bird identification pictures, and doing that only after actually holding it in my hands, it's a curve billed thrasher.

It's been around for a while. It likes the hummingbird feeders, it's bill narrow enough to poke inside the openings and grab itself a drink. We cut off the perching rings the feeders come with as a way if letting the hummingbirds rest while they eat, because they made it too handy for the thrasher. It wasn't deterred, however, hooking one foot around the plastic flower, the other around the wire hanger, and thus secured, dipping its bill into the sugar water. As territorial as the hummers are, they seem to have given up on dive bombing the bigger bird that simply ignores them until it's finished anyway.

With the first line of defense against it now useless, I gave up fighting it, partly in admiration for its cleverness, partly because the hummers don't drain the feeder fast enough anyway to keep the sugar from drying out in crystals on the bottom. It's much harder to clean that way before refills. So, what the heck.

It has gotten easier for us to passively allow the dogs access to the back yard by leaving the patio slider open during the day. Very few bugs fly in, perhaps two flies a week, and there are fewer puddles to wipe up when our timing doesn't quite match the dogs'. Lately however the thrasher has gotten to be a regular visitor - inside the house.

We're not sure why. Every time it ventures inside it gets terrorized by the dogs. They think it great sport to chase it around, and manage each time to get the little birdbrain to leave behind a few feathers in its panicked flights from curtains to windows to Steve's hats to the picture frame for which I think we have the right kind of glue, to... well, any and every where. The formerly clean and folded towels on top of the dryer. The window blinds, from which it requires an assist in freeing its wings. Cabinet tops. Chair backs. The fireplace mantle.

It takes a while and several sharp commands to call the dogs off and enclose them in another room so the bird can calm down enough to find its way out again. Usually in a half hour it's gone after being left completely alone. I've found that my chasing it does exactly as much good at encouraging it to locate the door it came in through as does having the dogs chase it. So I don't try.


This morning they chased it into a corner of the floor between the wall and a display cabinet. Fred could nearly push himself into the space. Ellie did, dragging the bird out in her mouth before dropping it at my command. The bird huddled back into the corner where I was able to slowly surround it by my hands and scoop it up gently. It didn't seem to be hurt, despite new piles of feathers on the floor, and was not fighting my holding it once I had it securely in my hands. (It hadn't been too thrilled when I first only managed to hold onto a single wing.)

Taking it back out to the patio to check it out further for injuries, it began to struggle in my hands. I tossed it up slightly and it flew off to the fence top at the edge of the yard, perched for a few seconds, and disappeared. I presume it is fine.

However, from what it has shown of a learning curve so far, I do not presume that it has learned to stay out of the house. One of these days it may discover a different set of consequences. Perhaps I'll simply come home to a much bigger pile of feathers on the floor. But they are much easier to clean up than the other kind of doggie presents, so I'm thinking we'll still keep a door open for the dogs.

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