Reflection-attacking birds

To: "" <>
Subject: Reflection-attacking birds
From: John Harris <>
Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2018 02:00:03 +0000

Curiouser and curiouser to quote Lewis Carroll. It appears to me that we have the classic detective principles in play here – opportunity and motive. I think opportunity is the major factor. Those birds most likely to be near glass are most likely to be on the list of birds which respond to their own reflection.  We should therefore expect that small birds dominate the list, birds which are likely to be in shrubbery near a window etc. The list in fact does support this. The SF Wren which attacked my house last spring followed the sun around the house to the windows which best reflected at a given time of day, but always those windows where there was a convenient perch near the window and not those where it was not close enough to see itself. This is true of all birds which have attacked their reflections in this house – indeed they mostly attack the same window with the rose bush touching the glass. The other major variable must surely be behavioural. It is logical that a naturally aggressive species of bird would be more likely to attack its reflection. SF Wrens are a prime example, notoriously aggressive in the breeding season. Geoffrey’s example of the Cockatoos NOT attacking his window accords with this. They are not known for much aggression and are a very communal bird used to the close proximity of other cockatoos in large flocks etc.  Someone mentioned Apostlebirds and Choughs. Well they are communal but in tight family groups and it does not surprise me that they would defend the group,  including the example given of a reflection in a hub cap.

The Mudlark is a very aggressive bird indeed and so it will notoriously attack its reflection. There are of course other very aggressive birds but how would we ever know? We would have to mount a mirror in a tree or cliff to see if a WT Eagle would attack its reflection!!! My neighbours have a story about a Cassowary but I suspect it was actually attacking the parked car, not its reflection.

So for what it’s worth, opportunity plus natural aggression must be the keys…








From: Geoffrey Dabb <>
Date: Friday, 20 July 2018 at 11:35 am
To: chatline <>
Subject: FW: [canberrabirds] Reflection-attacking birds


Thanks Mark.  List corrected and augmented.  20 species so far.  g


From: Mark Clayton <>
Sent: Friday, 20 July 2018 11:17 AM
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Reflection-attacking birds


Sorry Geoffrey,

I meant to add these to the list earlier but got sidetracked - White-winged Chough and Apostlebird, both attacking car windows, mirrors and shiny hubcaps in several places around the eastern "inland".



On 20/07/2018 10:55 AM, Geoffrey Dabb wrote:

Thanks for contributions.  I attach the list.  One thing I notice is that parrots and cockatoos, among our most abundant and inter-active species, are absent from the list.  They can be at least playfully aggressive to one another.  Perhaps, for some reason, they do not interpret a reflection as a rival.  We have a regular pair of cockatoos that not only watches us through the window but occasionally perches on the window ledge and taps on the glass to attract attention.



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