This morning I was sitting on the front porch of my house when a blackbird flew within inches of my face, smacked into my living room window, and dropped onto the table alongside my coffee cup. I left it where it lay, hoping it had knocked itself out and would soon awaken, but it had either broken its neck or cracked its skull. It was dead. I have reflective maple leaf decals plastered all over my front window in hopes the birds see the glass, but about three times a year a bird doesn’t get the message. 

When I saw the blackish bird lying before me, my first thought was, “Oh good, it’s not a catbird.” My second thought was, “Darn, it’s not a cowbird.” I’ve always known I like some birds more than others, but I didn’t realize these feelings were so strong that they’d show themselves spontaneously. I appreciate the sleek lines of catbirds, and I like their cat-like meowing. Cowbirds, on the other hand, are brood parasites, meaning they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and prevent the host parents from successfully raising their own young. Cowbirds may be one of very few creatures in the wild I actually dislike, even though I understand their egg-laying methods are no more than an instinctive behavior.

While I am not 100% sure, I think the bird that crashed into my window was a Brewer’s blackbird. Apparently I haven’t encountered that particular species often enough to form a strong opinion about it. I don’t dislike it, but I have no special affection for it either. Of all of the blackbirds in the Upper Midwest, red-winged blackbirds may be my favorite. Their call is the quintessential sound of the marsh. I even like it when a male pecks me in the head for unwittingly getting too close to the nests of his small harem of females. Usually I encounter red-wing attacks when I am on foot in the marsh. Then I can swat the aggressive bird away with my hands. Three days ago I was attacked while on my bicycle. My hands were busy steering the bike, and I was wearing a bike helmet – so I just let the bird do its thing. For what seemed a full ten seconds, the bird pecked at the plastic of my bike helmet until I got well past the area it was protecting. 

Steven Simpson