Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A very small life

If you have picture windows in your house, you may have heard the particular thud of a bird hitting the window. The sound is so sharp and quick that it can leave you wondering if you heard anything at all. To ward off reckless fliers, people sometimes put decals of crows or other shapes on large windows or sliding glass doors. My house has white, horizontal blinds on the windows. I keep them open to let in the light but lowered so that the windows don’t look like an empty expanse to birds.

At least I thought the blinds looked like a barrier until today when I heard the ominous thunk followed by the barking of two Airedales. Sometimes a bird is stunned and best left alone to recover. Today’s bird, a juvenile goldfinch, was not so lucky.
Juveniles have duller coloring than adults as well as a dark upper beak.

Although the goldfinch is the Washington state bird, we don’t often see them anymore. The population of songbirds has declined drastically everywhere. Reasons normally include habitat loss, acid rain, climate change, even predation by household cats, though a recent study in the UK supports habitat loss as the main reason.

I went outside to the front porch to find the bird dead of a broken neck below the window-box nasturtiums, one eye closed and the other beginning to dull. Most birds around here sport variations in shades of brown; to find some golden coloring is like finding real gold. I took photos to remember the colors and when examining the markings on the bird’s wing, discovered the flight feathers are so delicate as to be translucent.

This is the time of year when birds, opossums, spiders and other wildlife leave their families to search for their own territory. That’s why we find more of them on our front porches and in the roads.

Early in the summer I mentioned the low odds of any bird surviving to reproduce. How important is one tiny goldfinch?


  1. Poor Little Goldfinch! Hope you don't lose to many birdies to the windows!

  2. Poor little guy! The Gold Finch is one of mom's favorite birdies. She says they're song is one of the sweetest ever!

    Love ya lots
    Maggie and Mitch

  3. Poor little chap. Sadly these things happen.

    Two weeks ago I went into the bedroom and heard a flapping noise in the dressing room, a very young swallow had flown in and could not find his way out. Fortunately I was able to cup he in my hands and carry him to the open window. Off he flew!

    Big Nose Pokes
    The Thugletsx

  4. I think readers are missing the point if they are sorry only about the goldfinch that flew into the windowpane. With the population of songbirds of all kinds in decline across North America, the day may not be far off when we no longer have to worry about them dashing themselves against our windows, because there won't BE any more of them—just pigeons, crows, gulls, house sparrows, starlings, and other vermin of the avian class.

  5. How tragic for this little bird. And how tragic that we are making it so difficult for these animals to survive.

  6. So sad about the Gold Finch. We have a big, fake owl on our deck and since we put it out 3 years ago have not had any more fatalities. Before that we had 2 ruffed grouse meet their maker by way of our picture window. Very sad. Also the mother robins used to go nuts seeing their reflection, then flying into the glass. Thank goodness the owl has stopped all that.
    BabyRD and Hootie

    ps-Our state bird is the Mtn.BlueBird and I have never seen one here. Ever. x-cassie

  7. The Audubon Society publishes a "State of the Birds" report.

    This site has a good summary, too: