Patience is the best way to remove ‘testy’ cardinals

Published 3:50 pm Saturday, March 16, 2013

Column: Nature’s World, by Al Batt

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

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“Everything is nearly copacetic. I ate a sink sandwich today. It was too messy to eat anywhere other than over a sink. I don’t have to watch what I eat because I weigh only 260 pounds stooped over. I have to stoop over in order to read the numbers on the bathroom scale.

My insurance man stopped over too early. He asked if I’d overslept. There’s no such thing as oversleeping. He told me that he’s uncomfortable insuring my house. He called it an unlit bonfire. I stack the catalogs for safekeeping. The mailman delivered a Victoria’s Secret catalog to Pop by mistake. Now Pop wants to get his eyes tested. I’ll ask Still Bill to take him to the doctor. That will give Still Bill something to do. Still Bill loafs so he’ll have something to fall back on. Hard work spotlights the character of people. Some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses and some don’t turn up at all. Still Bill doesn’t even consider turning up.

Anyway, the insurance guy is frustrated with me because all my financial planning involves coupons. He tells me that they shorted me when they passed out brains. If that’s true, it’s because they were too busy giving him a double dose of stomach.”


Go west, young bird

It was a snowy and windy morning. Approximately 50 redpolls rose from the feeders in my yard, flew high into the sky, fought the wind for a moment and then went where the wind took them.

A chickadee called its own name and then whistled “spring’s here.”

The redpolls returned.


Q and A

Janet Eastvold of Hartland asks how to discourage a cardinal from fighting with its reflection in windows? Windows can be enemy territory for cardinals. Birds, fueled by hormones, attack windows that mess with their minds and make them feel territorial.

Birds are unable to perceive the difference between a reflected image and a real bird. A cardinal engages in beak-to-beak combat with himself. He becomes his own worst enemy. Since the birds in the window won’t leave, the cardinal prolongs the fight. This window battle usually lasts a week or two, but occasionally a bird will attack those mirrored images for months at a time. Remember, “testosterone” is just “testy” with more and different letters. It’s typically the male that battles the glass with the female acting as an enabler, but she will take a shot at her image, too. Robins and cardinals are the most likely to do battle with a Pella or a Marvin, but a diverse group of birds will attack windows — including pheasants and turkeys.

I recommend patience and empathy. If you can break the window shadowboxing pattern for at least a week that should give the bird enough time to forget about his enemy in the glass. The reflection needs to be blocked from the outside. Covering the inside of the window does nothing more than to enhance the reflected image. Drawing the blinds or pulling the curtains closed exacerbates the problem because it makes the window a better mirror. Cover the outside of the glass with cardboard, paper, soap, painter’s plastic drop cloth or plastic cling wrap. This will make Martha Stewart shudder like an earthquake, but it removes the reflection. This doesn’t always eliminate the behavior. The bird may search for and find imaginary opponents in other windows. I have had birds scraping with the mirrors of cars. The birds rarely do themselves any great harm. Putting out a replica of an owl doesn’t work.


Nature lessons

The brighter red a cardinal male is, the higher his reproductive success will be and the more effective he’ll be at holding preferred territories. The cardinal’s color is related to what he’s been eating. When a female sees a bright red male, it’s a signal to her that he is healthy and has a good territory.



I have always wanted to visit Nameless, Texas. I’m not sure if I would like to go to Uncertain, Texas.

I was certain I was outside a Texas city that had a name when I found small funnel-shaped dimples in the sand. I grabbed a twig and gently stirred it around one of the impressions as a friend from Texas chanted, “Doodlebug, doodlebug, come out of your hole. Your house is on fire, and your children will burn.”

A little beastie appeared, a larval antlion. Made many times larger, it would be a perfect creature for a sci-fi movie. It looks like a tiny turtle with large, extended jaws. Mark Twain included one in his novel “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “Doodlebug, doodlebug, tell me what I want to know!”

The burrowing of a doodlebug created the dimple in the sand. It sat buried at the bottom of the imprint. If an ant or other small insect walked by, it would slip on the sand particles and tumble into the abyss. There, it would fall prey to the jaws of a hungry doodlebug.


This from the BBRP

On April 13, the Bluebird Recovery Program Expo will take place at the middle school in Northfield. We’ll have Mike Jeresek and Keith Radel on bluebird topics, the great humor of Al Batt, Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes (from WCCO Radio), Kelly Applegate on purple martins, Leif Knecht from Knecht’s Nurseries & Landscaping will cover plants for wildlife and bluebirds, and the Raptor Center of Minnesota will present live birds. There will be a catered hot lunch, vendors of bluebirder gear, display tables of nature items, a silent auction and a raffle. Please visit or contact Jenean Mortenson at for more information.

Thanks for stopping by

“There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.”— W.C. Fields

“Just smiling goes a long way toward making you feel better about life. And when you feel better about life, your life is better.”— Art Linkletter

“This dirty puddle used to be pure snow. I walk by it with respect.”— Stanislaw Jerzy Lec



Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at