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Toronto birds attack walkers from behind: ‘It’s their territory, we’re just in it’ |



It’s feathered, and a tiny bit ferocious.

Summer is here, which means a notorious angry bird is back to pecking pedestrian’s heads, including in Toronto.

“I used to doubt when people told me that the red-winged blackbirds could be that aggressive,” said Shawn Pearen.

Then the bird came at Pearen and his dog at Corktown Common — twice in one week.

“You don’t even know they’re coming. They swoop in from behind. They make a crazy hooshing or hissing sound, trying to scare you away, and it scared us away,” he said.

Pearen said he lovingly understands the birds’ aggressive behaviour around the late spring and early summer.

“It’s their territory, we’re just in it,” he said.

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The City of Toronto’s 311 service has received only one report of a bird attack so far this year, and only one in 2023 as well.

Regardless, the songbird has earned quite the reputation for being angry.

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That behavior, however, is an integral part of its breeding, according to Nancy Barrett.

“Always around the beginning of June, red-winged blackbirds have begun nesting and incubating eggs. So they have a habit of protecting their young ones,” said the member at large of Toronto Ornithological Club.

When the bird perceives a threat, dive-bombing is its natural behaviour.

It doesn’t pose any danger to people, said Barrett, although she can attest to the fact that it can sometimes hurt.

“I’ve been buzzed twice in the same day just recently,” she laughed.

Red-winged blackbirds are native to North America, and are an integral part of Toronto’s wetlands, according to Barrett.

It’s one of Canada’s most common song birds — forming nests close to the ground and around marshy areas or stagnant water to protect its’ eggs from predators like raccoons, according to the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

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If you’re attacked, don’t take it personally.

Male birds, which have the bold wing color, are known to be aggressive to all kinds of perceived threats, including other birds.

The birds’ nesting period can last from late April to late July, which means their aggressive behaviour is only temporary.

D.J. May has seen the bird in action this summer with his son at Corktown Common.

“I’m not too concerned. To the bird — I’m a local. I got the free pass out here,” said May, who hasn’t been attacked, but isn’t too worried about the bird defending its territory.

“He runs this park right now … You gotta duck your head or keep a cap on or something,” he laughed.

Barrett said that’s good advice.

Also, If you see a red-winged blackbird closing in on you, try not to wave your arms, as it might further threaten them.

If you can, said Barrett, observe the bird from a distance and avoid disturbing their nests.

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