Gardening Magazine

You Lookin' at Me?

By Gardenamateur

Such lovely birds, magpies. I like their song better than any other bird's, so I'm always delighted to see them wandering around our garden. Yesterday, one seemed to be finding plenty to eat amongst the mulch around our baby zucchini plant, when it stopped for a moment, looked up, and saw another magpie doing the same.

Oh no! Fear not, the magpie looked at its grazing partner, then continued on with the more important business of searching for insects in the mulch.

You lookin' at me?

This is the downside of installing a mirror in a small garden ... it does look nice to see the reflections of plants in the mirror, and it does help to make the small garden feel a bit bigger, but at the wrong time of year, it can start fights. 
You lookin' at me?

Our grazing magpie was merely curious, but at other times of year, in the mating season, the sight of a "competitor" on their patch sends some birds into a flurry of wing flaps and hops, head butts and feints and other "go away" territorial displays ... and they'll never win against a mirror. The only outcome is that they might hurt themselves, which is something I definitely don't want.

So, when I notice a bird having a fight with itself, doing its own version of Robert de Niro's classic "You lookin' at me?" scene from Taxi Driver, I do shoo it away. One simple fix to the problem in our case is to open my shed door, which, when it swings open, blocks the mirror.

But lots of home owners with generous expanses of windows facing gardens will know what I am talking about, and have a much bigger problem. At the wrong time of day, at the wrong time of year, those windows become mirrors which can send mating birds into lethal frenzies of competition as they try to see off the "intruder" (by flying straight into the window). Whack! Some will do it repeatedly, such is there competitive instinct, and many birds have died for their cause.

It's such a hard problem to prevent, and as most gardeners love to not only see birds in their gardens but actively try to attract winged visitors with nectar plants, birdbaths, etc, it's just a risk for us to be aware of, and to helpfully 'shoo' a bird away from self-harm when you can, but in the mating season, your garden is "territory" to be fought for, and tragedy is always on the cards.

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