Science Questions

Why is a duck tapping on my window?

Tue, 9th Aug 2016

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Question

Josephine Horn asked:

I have two mallard ducks that come to my patio one comes up to the door wall and keeps tapping on the window. Why is this?

Answer

We put this to Eleanor Drinkwater, from the University of Cambridge...Goose tapping on the window

Eleanor - Well itís a really difficult thing to say without seeing the ducks themselves but Iíd say it could be down to two things. One if there was a nice reflections of a duck on the other side. Ducks canít recognise their own reflection. The only bird known to recognise their own reflection is, actually, magpies, so it could be thinking thereís another duck there.

Alternatively, if youíve ever fed it before, it could be coming back to try and check out the scope and try and persuade you to feed it something else.

Kat - Has anyone noticed this with ducks - has anyone got ducks in their garden?

Giles - Because I was asking you, I think, before we came in here whether itís the same reason as with crows?  Because we had this crow on the top of our house once just tapping at he window and we had to put these little spiky things up to stop them from actually coming in.

Chris - I think Eleanorís point about the reflection is the one because our next door neighbour has a window that, at certain times of the day, it reflects the sun and the birds sit on the window sill and tap on that round window. And, I think, if you look I can see a reflected bird sitting and I think they probably catch sight of themselves as they go past because birds have got fiercely good vision, havenít they, Eleanor?

Eleanor - Yes.

Chris - And so theyíre probably trying to attract this predator thatís invading their patch.

Kat - And then thereís also the reverse problem isnít there? Because my mum has big patio doors and before she put some big stickers of birds on them, because she used to get poor little things flying straight into the glass because they couldnít see it. Is that quite a big problem too?

Eleanor - Yes, birds flying into windows is a really big problem. And, in fact, thereís some really cool research thatís going on, as birds can see in UV and we canít. So thereís some really cool research going on to kind of put some stripes across the windows and all sorts of different things to make marks that the birds can see that we canít.

Kat - Oh wow! So you could have like a scary UV bird that instead of obscuring your vision with a sticker?

Eleanor - Yes, well thatís the idea.

Chris - I think the duck was just quackers!

Eleanor - Thatís the other alternative.

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Probably the same reason caged-birds peck at mirrored-toys : they mistake their refection for another bird , ( although, if you feed them, they could be trying to get the attention of the waiter ). RD, Fri, 27th May 2016

Often it is the male bird, trying to intimidate a perceived male interloper. evan_au, Fri, 27th May 2016

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