Juncos do not understand mirrors

The other day I saw a junco perched on the ledge of the front side window of a parked car. As I watched, he flew at the side-view mirror, a full head-on charge. When that didn’t seem to work, he sat back on his perch on the window, looked at the mirror, and charged again. And again. When some people passing by scared him up into a tree, he waited until they were gone, and then he flew back down and resumed his attack. He was really determined to win this fight against Mr. Uppity Mirror Junco.

I’m hoping this was a fluke. No one wants to think that their study species is dumb.

21 thoughts on “Juncos do not understand mirrors

  1. I’m a wildlife biologist living in Lake Tahoe, and for the last week or so, I have been observing a junco perch on the side mirror of our car and inspect himself and lightly tap the mirror. After being disturbed (by the dog or kids running by the car) he, too, returned to his post. On another occasion several years ago, I observed a junco acting in a similar manner while he looked at his reflection in a window, while he perched on a windowsill.

    I found your post by searching for this topic–I was curious if others has observed this behavior, too! I don’t think it’s a fluke!

  2. Hi Mollie, that’s neat that you’ve seen it too! I suspect the timing isn’t random – this is the breeding season, so their awareness of other juncos, either as rival or potential mate, is probably especially high. Interesting that you say this has been happening for a week or more. I hope eventually he moves on!

  3. An Oregon Junco has been attacking our bedroom window, over and over, for the past few days. Now it has moved over to the less convenient dining room window. It doesn’t seem to see other juncos as rivals. The head is not as dark as some others; maybe it’s just a vain female.

  4. I just saw a Junco inspecting car mirrors this morning. He was hopping from car to car, both sides, to look in the mirrors. He had obviously figured out that all cars have these mirrors. He didn’t seem to be attacking them though, just inspecting them.

    • Interesting! Maybe the fact that he had noticed so many of the mirrors made him think that something funny was going on, and so not attack the “other juncos”? I wish I could get inside their heads!

  5. Juncos have scratched the heck out of every side mirror on every car we own (I live in the CA San Bernardino Mountains). One will jump at the side mirror with his beak over and over again and then poop all over. I caught one in the act this morning. What is this all about?

  6. A paper on the topic of birds interacting with their reflection has just been published in Ornithological Observations, a semi-scientific e-journal published by BirdLife South Africa and the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. The paper also features a reference to this post! You can download the it here http://oo.adu.org.za/content.php?id=83

  7. Hello,
    We have a very persistent male Junco at our home in bay area foothills of California. This guy has been pecking at all of our windows for almost 6 weeks. He has moved on to any car that parks in our driveway side mirrors 4 weeks ago. I went away for weekend can came back to a black car covered in peck marks and droppings all around the mirrors. We thought he would stop after a few days but he continues the behavior. Wish we could get him to stop beyond the mess it is disturbing to see bird act this way.

    • Same here in the mountains of West Virginia. A couple of them have been pounding away at the windows in the great room, Sun room and my office. They start about 06:15 , take a break mid day and then start up again in th late afternoon. It’s been going for about a month now.

  8. I have a 20 second video I shot todat from the inside of an SUV showing a junco waging war with a mirror. The iPhone file is too large to email, alas, and I don’t have compression software. Btw, the thing that slows the bird down is to put a plastic grocery bag over the wing mirror and fold it in. You’re right about them not getting it. I resorted to the bag after three days of nonstop mirror attacks.

  9. The crazed junco now has a new target— my neighbor’s windows. There is now bird poop on 11 of their window sills! I could tell him how to deal with it, but it’s terminal. All one has to do is the old trapping snare trick of attaching a stick to the sill with a bunch of fishing line slip knots attached. Snag one foot and it’s over. But I’m kind of growing fond of the insane bird, so I’ll just watch and see how it plays out🐱

    • Yes, please don’t encourage anyone to handle things that way! (Also, it is illegal to kill a migratory bird, which includes juncos.) A *much* better fix for all involved is to make the window less of a mirror: put an image in the window, put something outside on the window, etc. The junco is being provoked by his own image, so disrupting that image will let him get on with his life.

      • Yes, I’m aware that juncos are protected, which is why I didn’t tell the neighbor trapping techniques. However, anyone has a right to put whatever they like on their windowsills. Lastly, I learned the trapping technique from a USGPO military manual “Evasion, Escape, and Survival”! But never fear, I
        like maniac birds😎.

      • Oh yeah… off topic but I have a pair of troglodytes troglodytes living under my back porch (Western Wren). They’re getting to recognize me and hop up to say hello once in awhile. My wife and I have renamed them Butterballs😁.

  10. We live in the Puget Sound area and currently have a little Oregon junco attacking our front window – repeatedly and for the last several days. I’ve gone outside several times to shoo him off but he returns. In the mean time, I have two cats sitting on the other side of the glass chirping their heads off.

    • How entertaining for the cats! If you want him to stop (which would be best for him – he’s not getting anything out of attacking your window), put something either outside the window, or inside pressed up against the glass (e.g. a calendar, a poster) – something to stop the window acting as a mirror. The junco is attacking his own reflection, so if the window stops being a mirror, he’ll stop.

  11. We have a junco going back and forth to all four of our vehicle mirrors for the last week. He can see himself in the windows of the car as well and hops along the window ledge. We live on the Olympic peninsula in Washington. He is very persistent.

      • After I had the cars washed, I put grocery bags over the car mirrors to dissuade the persistent junco from fighting himself in the mirrors.
        He now moved to the next door neighbor’s car mirrors :-), which now have bags on them too!

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