Birds in my house
When we lived
in Gloucestershire, out in the country with a garden which attracted
many birds, I can never remember a bird entering the house voluntarily,
despite the doors and windows often being open. However, here on
Islay it is commonplace for birds to come indoors. Even in the short
time it takes to go from the back door to the workshop, which houses
the deep freeze, leaving the door open almost guarantees that a
Robin will be in the kitchen on one's return.
noted the apparent willingness of birds to come indoors as soon
as we moved here. The previous owners of the house had not apparently
done anything to encourage it, indeed they kept a cat. The following,
in approximate order of frequency, have all entered the house of
their own accord: Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Starling, Blackbird,
Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Wren. Of the other regular visitors to
the garden, I am still waiting for first visits from Collared Dove,
Song Thrush, Goldfinch, Siskin and Blue Tit.
reasons occur to me why these birds should make routinely enter
the house. Firstly, they are coming for food. Granted we have a
dog, and his bowl, often containing food, is usually on the kitchen
floor, but I haven't noticed any of the birds feeding from it. The
dog, by the way, is always interested when there's a bird in the
house, but neither attempts to catch them and nor chases them away
or keeps them out. If it is food, then arguably there was far more
of it lying around as crumbs and other spills when we lived in Gloucestershire
and were bringing up two children! The second reason could be that
the birds are seeking shelter. Certainly, the climate here is a
great deal wetter and windier than in the south, but I can find
no correlation of visits with bad weather. The birds come inside
in all conditions.
was one bird visitor which certainly was after food, but in the
shape of another bird! I walked out of the house to post a letter
- the postbox is less than 100 yards away - and left the door open.
When I returned, there was a House Sparrow and a Sparrowhawk both
flapping against the glass of the same window! Presumably the House
Sparrow was being pursued by the Sparrowhawk and it decided to escape
by flying in at the open door, only to be followed by the hawk.
I caught both birds and released the House Sparrow but waited a
decent interval before releasing the Sparrowhawk.
We've got used
to our visitors, just as we've got used to wiping their deposits
from the backs of chairs or discovering them when we move a picture
and find the splashes down the wall behind. And the birds have got
very accustomed to the house. One Robin waits unflustered while
I re-open the back door or open a window in another room into which
it has flown. It obediently returns to the garden, but I know it
will be back.
Ogilvie is a natural history writer and editor, formerly a research
scientist with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and resident
on the island of Islay since 1986. Until 1997, a member of the
'British Birds' editorial board and also one of the editorial
team which produced 'Birds of the Western Palearctic'.