The bird at my front door.

It looks so small and innocent, right? Well, I am here to tell you this cute little towhee is like something out of Alfred Hitchcock/Edgar Allan Poe. The drama began about a week after we got our house repainted and I replaced the battered brass scuff-plate at the bottom of our door with a shiny new one.

The dazzling attraction

I was up on the third floor writing when I heard a tap, tap, tapping at my front door. I figured it was the printer and forgot about it, but a few hours later I realized it was still going on –and I wasn’t printing anything. I slowly walked down the stairs and got a decidedly creepy feeling – was somebody in the house?? I looked out the front door and nobody was there, yet the tapping went on. Then I looked down – and right there on the welcome mat, this small but insanely determined towhee was madly attacking its own reflection in the door.

I yanked open the door and scared it away – but twenty minutes later, it was back at it. After about six hours of this cat-and-bird game, I chased my fine-feathered friend into a tree and threw a shoe at it (PETA pals, please don’t judge) but in twenty minutes it was back tap, tap, tapping. I have a renewed respect for The Raven now – all that tapping, gently rapping stuff does make you feel unhinged. Finally, I simply covered the plate with a long strip of taped-together papers but that looked so ghetto my husband tore it off a few days later… and then, driven nuts himself by the incessant tapping, had to come up with his own brilliant solution (wax paper!) which is only slightly less raggedy-looking.

The photo we never got ... Look at his maniacal eyes!

Of course, when I decided to write this story I needed a photo – but the bird proved uncannily elusive. My husband’s fury at the bird morphed into grudging respect as he waited for hours for the bird to show up – but the instant he tried to take its photo (even through the window), it would scamper under the plants or fly off. Brangelina could really learn a few anti-paparazzi tricks from this old bird!

Up in the trees...

As much as it enraged me, my indefatigable towhee has become a kind of metaphor for this summer. For one thing, its signature call is a great Southern tradition, sounding uncannily like “Drink your teeeeeeeea,” which I know because I come from a family of die-hard birdwatchers. My birdie also never gives up, no matter how futile the task – which is good counsel for my summertime pastimes of finding an apartment for Lulu in Queens in two days (check!), jumping around in trees ziplining with my sister and her girls (check!), remembering to tweet (check!) , and trying to figure out a way to keep What Gives giving … and that pretty much entails tapping on doors until (hopefully) they finally open.

Wish me luck on that … and Happy Summer, y’all!

Another happy camper!

(And here’s a little slice of dessert from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –
Only this, and nothing more.’

26 thoughts on “The bird at my front door.

  1. Throwing a shoe is seriously bad luck too bad if bad luck has been around ever since” bird have a meaning especially when they are at your door they need help and if they get the help the helper will be prized in life… Think before harming an innocent animal… No joke!!!

  2. I have this problem, tried smacking the front door with my current paperback mystery, yelling, tapping back..with no results. This morning I strung and stuck in random artistic fashion about three yards of very sticky 2 inch wrapping tape across the threshold. We’ll see….Mr. Bird, we’ll see……

    • oh wow — very creative ideas, Beatrice!! For some reason, after I ruined all Mr. Bird’s fun with a swathing of wax paper, he finally abandoned the quest to peck his own reflection to death … I think! You never know when he’ll come back….

    • Dear Accidental Stepmom (how much do i LOVE that title??) — update on the bird. After my husband’s crafty wax-paper cover up of the brass plate, the towhee
      eventually saw through that gambit and pecked his stupid way through it — and started attacking its own reflection again! So now the ratty piece of paper is back
      up, our front door looks ridiculous, and we have a little peace. Stay tuned ….

  3. Gee thanks. That bird had been in therapy for body image problems and had just had a breakthrough. You have set him back years. pat

  4. I think the towhee is just lonely. Once he finds a mate, you’ll wonder where he’s gone, and maybe even find yourself missing that gentle rapping — Empty Nest Syndrome, Part 2?

    Have fun zip-lining through the trees, but watch out for the birds.

    • BronxBoy — I can’t stand another Empty Nest experience, but I’m pretty sure I won’t experience it when this stupid towhee flies the coop. Because… he’ll always come back!
      the minute we take the paper away, he’s insanely attacking himself again… wow, we should have this kind of ferocious concentration at work in Congress! (and the odd thing is, I used to listen to his song every day with such appreciation … guess it’s the natural application of “better heard than seen.” Happy weekend, BB!

  5. I loved your story! I should do one about how I left the sunroom door ajar 2 nights ago by accident and woke up to find I was entertaining a squirrel and a raccoon and 5 lbs. of bird seed all over the floor! I love Nature!!

  6. This made me laugh! The shoe… its signature call… It reminds me of high school, trying to sleep at my parent’s home in the Black Hills, one heck of a determined woodpecker, and a very sad BB gun my Dad bought for who knows why, because nobody in my family likes guns. Needless to say, my life in the country was predestined.

    Great post!

    • It’s so true that birds and their noises, which I usually find delightful, when they get too close & personal become intolerable .. at least to those of us who are patience-challenged! And btw, I meant to write that my shoe missed Mr. Towhee by a mile!

  7. Hi there again
    Your story reminds me of a wee story I heard about a very persistant snail.
    One cold winter’s night when the stars were shining like diamonds in a coal black sky a man was sitting by his fire when there came a tapping at his door. He reluctantly got up and went to see who was there. Upon opening the door he spied a little snail waiting there at his feet. The man just kicked the snail back down the garden path and returned to the snug warmth of his cosy fire.
    Exactly one year later after the passing of another spring,another summer and another autumn that same man sat by his fire on another cold winter’s night when there came a tapping at his door. The man again reluctantly left the cosy warmth of his fire to answer the door.
    And there at his feet was that self same snail he’d kicked down the garden path all those many days before. And the snail looked up at the man and said:
    WHAT DID YOU DO THAT FOR ?

    • That’s hilarious!! Luckily, as I wrote to Country Man’s wife, my furiously thrown shoe didn’t come within a zip code of conking out my Terrible Towhee — so I’m not too worried he’ll come back looking for me… but you never know!!

  8. Interesting that these small birds can disturb the peace and quiet in your home, and move Louise’s Santa Fe dinner party inside.

    Betty you should put up a sign next to the scuff plate display at your local hardware store: “Warning! if you buy this nice brass plate you may end up having to cover it with wax paper, so don’t bother replacing it 🙂 “

    • I really should put up a warning sign! I was so proud of myself for adding such a splashy bright piece on the bottom of my door — guess it just shows that pride goeth before a fall .. or a vengeful bird! Nice to know in these climate changing times that birds can still wield some power over us — as long as it’s not at my front door!

  9. Great story. It certainly proves that it’s not the big things that drive us crazy, it’s the little things…smile.

  10. So what finally happened in the war with the bird? Did it finally give up and depart? Realize it had an opponent just as determined as he? Leave it to you to pull a metaphor out of this situation!!

    • Well, Judy — of course I’m going to look for the metaphor in the event — how else am I going to get to the next level of incarnation?? As to your question about the bird’s current activities: Larry’s wax paper trick seems to be working — as long as the bird can’t see even a sliver of a reflection, apparently he’s convinced his “rival” is no longer taunting him from our front door and has gone back to pecking the ground and other worthwhile pursuits. Unfortunately, that means our brand new front door is swathed in wax paper and looks — hmmm, tacky leaps to mind — but it’s a small price to pay for peace and quiet!

  11. OMG. I had not heard of a towhee until 2 days ago. We were sitting on the front porch of a house in Santa Fe, trying to have cocktails and this bird, who had a nest in the eaves of the porch, started swooping around, trying to do touch and go’s on our heads or bobbing on the ground making quite a racket. Our friend recognized it as a ruby towhee! Between the babies in the nest chirping away and the mama towhee squawking, we decided to move on to dinner to be able to talk to one another.

    • Louise — How funny you should mention Santa Fe since one of the best photos on Wikipedia under “Towhees” was taken in a beautiful pinon pine in Santa Fe! Wow, these towhees get around .. probably because they are so aggressive! Hilarious!

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