Robin Attack

Many animal species recognize images or vocalizations of their own species or of other species. How do we know? Playback experiments, for example, allow researchers to test how individuals react to sounds or video played on cue with electronic equipment (see The Lion’s Roar or Wolf Spiders).

Some animals also appear to recognize their own reflections. Take American Robins, for example. Male Robins sometimes take their reflection in a window for a competitor and repeatedly attack said competitor. In 2003, we learned about this phenomenon first hand. Our experience is not unique. You can many similar stories with a quick search on the web using the search terms “robin attack.”

This particular Robin first attacked a window in a back door of our house, then, over a period of a couple of weeks, circled our house and shop, attacking his reflection in half a dozen windows. Neither the Robin nor the windows sustained any lasting damage, though it was a bit of a problem cleaning up the mess.