Robbing Robin: Negotiating a Truce With a Bird
By Nancy Taiani
A robin has seized our backyard—the property detailed on our deed. We have owned it for 20 years. But the robin behaves like we are trespassers.
I’d been convinced that the overwintering sparrows, doves and cardinals were enjoying our hospitality and bird feeder and peacefully sharing the space. Then, with the spring, the robin and his mate moved in.
Now when I go out to work in the garden or hang out the wash he follows, swooping from pear tree to pussy willow, ceaselessly jeering, demanding I leave. Each evening when my husband harvests salad greens from the garden he is bedeviled by the red-breasted harpy.
My husband and I have done nothing but provide a comfortable environment for this ungrateful usurper. We’re very willing to share the space with wildlife. Our backyard is even certified as a wildlife habitat. But the robin is not willing to share. I haven’t seen the doves or cardinals since he took up residence. At least the sparrows remain, and some tough blue jays still come to bathe in the bird bath. He hasn’t intimidated the ground hog either. But he won’t permit me to sit quietly out back with a book, and forget making a phone call from the yard—he drowns out the words of my friends.
Perhaps the robin has an ancestral claim to the area behind our house. After all, since we moved here, there have always been robins. Four years ago a robin lived here—could it have been he?—who swooped and yelled after our little orange cat whenever she came out. We assumed she had done some treachery to one of his family members and probably deserved the scolding. Maybe it was this robin’s father. Maybe raucous scolding runs in the family. Still, I’d like to see him prove that it is his family that is indigenous.
I want to negotiate a truce with this bird. Some peace and quiet in our little corner of the world would be lovely. I’ve spoken calmly to him—in English of course, and have even tried chirping back. He stubbornly refuses to change his behavior. I can’t imagine that he would honor a sheriff’s order to vacate since he is in no way intimidated by our cats. I suppose he wants us to leave. But I know something that the robin doesn’t. When he and his mate fly south for the winter, we’ll still be here.