Sunday, April 7, 2013

Angry Birds is Totally Implausible

We like the Angry Birds game around here. I've wasted wisely invested many, many hours playing it, and now number-one-son Caleb is really into it. But we've learned through firsthand experience that it's quite unrealistic. 

Unless you've been under a rock for the past several years, you probably know this game lets you destroy wood, concrete, and glass structures by launching birds at them with a slingshot. In reality, a bird cannot even penetrate a picture window.

We have a wood burning stove in our family room/home theater/blogging lair. It works really well; last winter we had fires in it every day, and it makes the room quite comfortable on even the coldest days. Lately, we've not had need for many fires because Spring has sprung here. Along with warmer temps, Spring brings a new crop of songbirds... young, inexperienced songbirds that don't know to stay away from wood stove chimneys, and are small enough to fit through the opening at the top of ours.

Here's a little fellow that ended up in the stove last week (it was cool in there at the time):

Based on its size, coloration, and bill shape, I believe
this is a young house finch, a fairly common species.
I shall call him "Sooty." 

Caleb and I heard him slide down the vent, then looked through the glass and saw him flapping around in there, understandably panicked. Seeing no benefit to keeping a wild bird in the house, I opened the front door, then opened the stove, thinking he would fly to freedom.

I was wrong. He went straight for the largest apparent portal to the great outdoors, our big picture window. By "went for it," I mean he flew toward it as fast as a young house finch can fly. When he's hopped up on adrenaline and has 40 feet of space to get a run at it, this is about Mach 3.

Upon hitting a windowpane headfirst at Mach 3, a house finch suffers severe brain damage and is killed instantly. Seriously. Dead as a door nail. This made us kind of sad, so we took another picture, with Caleb holding the little guy's still-warm body, and then we buried him in the garden. (The bird, not Caleb!)

He's only smiling because I let him hold the bird. Inwardly, he felt bad.
I made him wash his hands right after this... don't judge me!

I swear we did not plan the above picture to make some kind of clever, ironic statement. It happened by pure coincidence that Caleb was wearing his Angry Birds watch that morning, which I didn't even notice until after I took the pic.

This bird's early demise could have been prevented, perhaps, if I'd hung a blanket or something in front of the window. I'll try to remember that next time. Although this is the first time (to my knowledge, at least) a bird killed itself trying to escape from our house, it's not the first time one was killed by that window.

Last year, a pretty yellow bird crashed into the same window from the outside. We heard a thump. I went out and found Tweety lying on the ground, dead as a dodo:

I think this was a goldfinch, but it might have been some kind of
flycatcher or warbler. Whatever it was, it didn't understand windows.

I can see why the one hit it from the inside; he was just trying to get to freedom. So what was this yellow one's excuse? It's not like the glass is invisible from our yard. Check out the glare:

Maybe birds just don't understand reflections? Perhaps Tweety saw this and thought there was an endless expanse of houses, cars, trees, and sky inside our living room. If so, maybe it's good that she removed herself from the gene pool. "I'll fly right through this open window frame and into the huge world within this house. That will be a perfect place to hatch and raise my brood!" Darwin would say such a bird deserves to be snuffed out, and its species is the better for it.

There's another possibility: maybe the reflection was not visible from her vantage point, or her eyes were not attuned to perceive it. In that case, she must have thought she was about to fly right inside an actual people house... like some kind of fearless Jackie Chan stunt bird. I wonder if she'd planned on making a few loops through the dining room, dive bombing the fruit salad on the kitchen countertop, and leaving the same way she entered, or if she wanted to fly in the front window, straight through the house, and out the back, like an avian barnstormer.

Too bad she didn't make it. She could have become the Evel Knievel of the bird world. Come to think of it, didn't Evel break every bone in his body at Ceasar's Palace in the mid-seventies? It seems Tweety is the Evel Knievel of the bird world. If she'd not been so fragile, perhaps she could have knocked the whole house down, thereby killing all us pigs inside.


  1. The local zoo smears their glass display windows with soap every year during migrations to help prevent the birds from clobbering themselves, but I've also heard that wind chimes or reflective swirly thingeys would work too.

    1. Those are good tips, Heather. I'm glad that at least the birds never knew what hit them--it's instant death. Or that is usually the case, I should say. A bird hit the same window once and was only stunned. We checked him out, and he seemed dizzy, probably sore. Put him in a safe place, and I think he survived and eventually flew away. But most often it's a quick and painless demise.

  2. Just came across your blog while visiting susielindau's page. I enjoyed this post and the pictures. We have the same problem with our windows in our contemporary home. The problem is that my husband is an avid birder and will try anything and everything to save the birds! Even the woodpeckers that are causing havoc to our exterior. We used to tape black cardboard cut-outs of birds flying on our windows and that seemed to help. Until I put my foot down and told him that although I too appreciate birds, cardboard cut-outs was not part of my desired decor. :)

    1. Thanks for stopping in, Swimming--and for leaving a comment. I'll look into the cardboard silhouettes as a possible solution. I used to not worry about this, but if birds keep getting killed, we need to do something.

      If you like what you read here, please check back again. I post once or twice a week usually. If you came here from susielindau, you're obviously one who appreciates good blogging!

  3. I think birds also see their reflections and think they are other birds tehy want to meet.
    Or they're incredibly narcissistic.
    I've dealt with the birds trying to get out the closed window. it's incredibly frustrating for the humans and the fowl.

    (I bet Caleb was telling the story all week.)

    1. So, they see their own reflection approaching and head straight for it, trying to butt heads like a bighorn sheep? I guess it's as likely an explanation as any.

      I was surprised how lightly Caleb took the whole situation. I thought he'd be upset, but he didn't really make a big deal of it.

  4. A long time ago there was a young couple living in a house that they called the "caboose" due to the arrangement of the rooms. Three rooms, all in a row and not much bigger than a caboose. At one end of the house was the living room, complete with a large window. The young couple had their first "pet", a parakeet, whose cage was located in front of that large window in order to give him/her/it a view. One day young Wife set out to clean the birdcage. Of course, the 'keet escaped and flew directly to the other end of the caboose house. The room at that end was the bedroom and had small, curtained windows. Time for a U-turn, bringing into view the large window only two rooms away. Bird Logic: 1) Achieve Warp speed, 2) Freedom.
    Step 2 did not go optimally.. When young Husband came home, 'keet was back in the cage. On the floor of it. He/she/it survived the impact but didn't work the same way as before. Feet were ok, legs weren't. Relearned to climb by hooking beak over a bit of the cage and raising up until feet could grasp something. Repeated as needed.Young couple had friends who were into birds and 'keet went to love with them.
    But you've heard this story before, Brian.

    1. That's funny! I remember some stories about the caboose (It was in New Jersey, right?), but not this one. So, for a time you had a pet differently-abled parakeet. Did you get a special parking tag for that?

      Now we carry on the tradition of using windows to cull the bird kingdom.

      When stressed, like trying to escape captivity, these critters seem to switch into panic mode. Then, rather than thinking through a strategy, they make rapid, rash decisions. This would not be so bad for a sloth. When you're flying swiftly through the air and you have ultralight, porous bones... it's more dangerous, as we've seen. How do you convince a terrified, confused wild animal to relax so you can help it find safety? They just don't listen.

      Thanks for checking in!