Hey, look over there. Whap.
May 28, 2010 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Why did this bird attack me?

I was walking to work yesterday, along a busy four lane road in our city, and something came up behind me and whap!, hit me hard, right on the head. I look up and see a bird fly past me, up into a tree. On closer examination, it's a hawk sitting there, looking at me. So I say, okay bird, maybe I was in your way or something, and you didn't see me. No harm done. I turn away and continue walking, and a few seconds later, whap!, right on top of the head again, hard. This time I say, BIRD, WHAT IS THE DEAL? I figure something weird was up, so I crossed the street to get away from it. Now I'm pretty paranoid, checking my back every few seconds the rest of the way to work. Fortunately, no further instances.

So what was the issue? Was there a baby close by or something? And I swear that the bird waited until I turned around to hit me again. Is this possible?
posted by SpacemanStix to Pets & Animals (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You were probably too close to its nest. Birds usually only get that sort of aggressive with humans when there's a nest nearby, and we're in prime nesting season right now.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:08 PM on May 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

Probably a nearby nest. I watched a grackle do this to innocent, unsuspecting passersby outside an office building i worked at (and I must admit that it was hilarious to watch).
posted by murrey at 12:09 PM on May 28, 2010

I bet there was a nest close by. A blue jay did this to my dad once...
posted by mingodingo at 12:09 PM on May 28, 2010

It felt hilarious, if it hadn't been me on a very public street.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:10 PM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't know about hawks, but crows around here (Vancouver, BC) do that all the time and, yeah, they never come at you from where you can see them. If you turn suddenly they'll veer away.

I'm sure they're protecting nests. Once you move on, they leave you alone.
posted by timeistight at 12:10 PM on May 28, 2010

Yeah, we had baby mockingbirds near our apartment this spring, and got to watch mom and dad occasionally buzzing pedestrians, but mostly taking out their rage on such dangerous critters as robins and morning doves. (Okay and several crows too, but they seriously would NOT put up with the robins they had --up until that point -- been peacefully sharing their lawn with.)
posted by heyforfour at 12:15 PM on May 28, 2010

My Bengal kitty got out of the house once, and I found him cowering on a neighbor's balcony, as a pair of blue jays took turns dive-bombing him and pecking him on the head. I knew him well enough to know he wasn't chasing birds, he was looking for other cats to socialize with. But on closer inspection, we discovered that the bluejays did have a nest nearby.

We always called him Peckerhead after that incident.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:19 PM on May 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

I feel for you SpacemanStix...I agree that it is only funny when it is not happening to you in a public place :)
posted by murrey at 12:22 PM on May 28, 2010

Hate to say it, but you might now be a marked man.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:30 PM on May 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Several years ago a mockingbird had a nest in a tree where I work and got so aggressive about dive-bombing passerby on a nearby sidewalk that public safety actually cordoned off a section of said sidewalk.
posted by TedW at 12:31 PM on May 28, 2010

GosHawks are notorious for this. You need not fear his talons, but they pack a punch. Wear a hard hat.
posted by Gungho at 12:31 PM on May 28, 2010

You need not fear his talons, but they pack a punch.

Yes, no talons were used, but I was amazed at how hard the hit was. I felt the air pressure change right before impact.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:49 PM on May 28, 2010

Yup, nest nearby. I get harassed by crows on my walk to work this time of year. And chased into the street by raccoons.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 12:50 PM on May 28, 2010

Yeah, you were definitely near the nest.

I narrowly avoided a dive-bombing nest-defending bird on a wooded pedestrian path. The guy walking behind me laughed at me. Then the bird attacked him and knocked his glasses off.
posted by MonsieurBon at 12:52 PM on May 28, 2010 [10 favorites]

It's got to be a nest. This happened to me a few years ago - for the space of about 2 months, a bird had a nest near my building. Every time I walked by it would fly at my head from behind. I have to say, I still have a certain level of PTSD about walking by trees with birds in them! I learned to take another route for a while, until I hear from a neighbor that the fly-bys had stopped.

Funny that it's always to the back of the head.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 1:04 PM on May 28, 2010

I was the target of a seagull. It was no longer raining but I still happened to carry my umbrella, which, as it turned out, was fortunate.
posted by Anything at 1:04 PM on May 28, 2010

It's always from behind, but not necessarily to the back of the head - a magpie knocked off my sunglasses once. When I was having trouble with a park near my house, I found a bunch of suggestions that cyclists could paint eyes on the back of their helmet, which would confuse the birds and ward off attacks. I never tried it but I still jump when a bird flies over me sometimes.
posted by jacalata at 1:43 PM on May 28, 2010

When I lived on Beacon Hill in Seattle, down the slope from an undeveloped park that had owls, grouse and pheasants living in it, among others, a nest of barn swallows showed up on the corner of my front porch one day.

Once the chicks hatched, I made the mistake of approaching the nest to put a shingle under it to deflect the shit away from the wall onto the easier to clean concrete floor of the porch, and after that, often when I left the house one of the adults would make a point of whipping by in front of my face with its belly toward me and its wings straight up and down, touching the tip of my nose maybe half the time.

It about made me jump out of my skin at first, but sunglasses helped me stop worrying about my eyes, and I missed it when they stopped doing it.
posted by jamjam at 2:12 PM on May 28, 2010

Are you bald? I recall several stories about attacking birds that thought bald men were particularly dangerous.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 2:37 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing that birds are INSANE about their nests. I had the sweetest, cuddly female cockatiel growing up, but most years she would end up laying some unfertilized eggs. God help you if you came near her doing those times. We'd normally let her out of the cage, but the first time she laid an egg we didn't notice until she went NUTS and started divebombing all of us. We didn't see the egg until we forced her back into her cage.

So we learned we couldn't let her out for however long she insisted on having her eggs around. She would get really angry and hiss at us if we came near her cage, and she'd try to attack us when we'd give her food. This let up over the years because she found it difficult to lunge at us while trying to sit on top of EIGHT eggs, the last of which she'd try to cram under her neck. She was productive, what can I say.

I've only had male birds since then, who have other hormonal issues. She was awesome and all, but man, eggs. And that was a bird that loved and trusted us any other time of the year. Wild birds will murder you and not think twice.
posted by Nattie at 2:54 PM on May 28, 2010

Nest defense.

I got attacked by a crow a few years ago, taking a shortcut through a cemetery. Nothing but WW2 graves. A windy, gray overcast day. Very creepy.

And then a little later, I noticed thousands of them on a telephone wire .........
posted by philip-random at 3:39 PM on May 28, 2010

Are you bald? I recall several stories about attacking birds that thought bald men were particularly dangerous.

No, not bald, although my wife suggested that the bird might have thought my hair was a bird's nest. I'm pretty sure that was her way of telling me to get a haircut.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:41 PM on May 28, 2010

33rding nest defense, but chiming in to say that Steller's jays can be jerks like that all year round (tho they'll usually toss missiles at you instead of divebombing). Only five years of constant hand-feeding of peanuts have reduced the acorn attacks that used to be a daily occurrence around here.

Those birds have damned good aim. They can wing an acorn into a forehead from thirty feet.
posted by annathea at 5:52 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fenway Park is home to a pair of hawks. One of them attacked a few people two years ago. One of them was an acquaintance whose story didn't make the news. If I recall correctly, the hawk had its talons out and she needed some stitches. Experts moved the nest after the attack on the kid and the acquaintance is still referred to as Tippi Hedren.
posted by swerve at 6:23 PM on May 28, 2010

Nest defence for sure. At least they aren't skuas (heavy enough to knock you flat) or terns (drop on you like a dart, unzipping your scalp to a bloody mess).
posted by scruss at 6:32 PM on May 28, 2010

Birds are fucking arseholes when defending their nest against people walking past. Every spring my primary school oval went out of use because plovers took over one end an magpies the the other. There have been cases of severe injury and death from magpie attacks as well.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:49 PM on May 28, 2010

This could be a portent of a worldwide avian uprising, as I too have recently been attacked by a bird in similar fashion.

My biking co-workers and I have been attacked by a red winged blackbird every day so far this week on the way out of the office. A few of us ride our bikes past a spot where he likes to perch on a power line, and every day, when we ride by he will swoop from the power line and buzz along one of us and give a few pecks in the helmet.

We also assume that we're riding by a nest, but of course nobody is going to walk over there and see exactly what's so great that Mr. Red Winged Blackbird needs to divebomb us to protect it.
posted by Hello, Revelers! I am Captain Lavender! at 9:57 PM on May 28, 2010

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