PERHAPS THEY WEREN'T ATTACKS BUT JUST MIS UNDERSTANDINGS?
by Sally Blanchard
My first real memory of an interaction with a wild bird was when my family lived outside of Philadelphia. I was about 8 years old and I spent a lot of time playing in the front yard, which was full of big trees. I built little towns around one huge Tuliptree. There were also lots of birds around and I loved to see what they were doing. My mother told me that I always talked to the birds. Perhaps it was because my best buddy was my budgie Mickey.
One morning when I went to my "town", there were two baby blue jays sitting on one of the buildings (I think it was part of a Fort Apache set?) When I walked towards them, the youngsters fluttered away towards the street. I was worried that if they went into the street a car could run over them so I ran to the street to head them off in another direction. Out of nowhere, a screeching kamikaze blue jay hit my forehead and scraped its feet along the top of my head. It hurt but more than anything my feelings were hurt. My mother came out to see what was going on and heard me trying to explain to the jay who had launched several more attacks, "I was just trying to save your babies" and then I sat down on the curb and cried. At least the babies stayed out of the street.
Since that time I have been "attacked" by several other birds, mostly because of my intense and occasionally inappropriate curiosity. I was very interested in a Swainson's Hawks nest with babies in it. One of the parents gave me a new part in my hair with a red "dye job" when I got too close. I also got too close to a nest of fledging scissor-tail flycatchers and one of the parents expressed her (or his) dissatisfaction with my presence. I was crawling on my belly before sunrise in Missouri to see prairie chickens dance and I flushed a short-eared owl that almost flew into my face. Another time, I was turning the corner outside my garage and a fleeing house sparrow collided with my chest. He was closely followed by a Merlin falcon that barely avoided a collision with my face.
One thing is sure, you can get a lot closer to wild bird if they don't have babies to protect. Clearly the message to me from the birds that had babies was to M.Y.O.B. Once I learned my lesson, I got a more powerful pair of binoculars.