“A Knock-Knock Mystery.”

She was my neighbor and had a problem. This is the meat and potatoes of a detective’s life. Or I should say the donuts and coffee. I’m a bird detective. In the world of two-fisted dicks, that makes me a strange bird. But it’s a living. Yeah, right.

"Knock. Knock."

"Knock. Knock."

“Tell me,” I said.

“Well, it’s some neighborhood kids playing a prank,” she said. “Crazy, damn kids. They come around every morning and knock on my door. When I answer, they’re gone. Then it happens again. Knock, knock. Nobody! It’s driving me crazy.”

She knew my non-detective job involved writing on a computer during the day, at home. She figured that since I’d be around, I could hide out and catch the knocking culprits.

That would be neighborly. But not my thing. I was about to say “no way,” then I saw the pleading look in her big browns. She was my neighbor, and had a problem.

“I’ll give it a try,” I said. Little did I know that this case would turn out to be right up my alley. Another story for the bird detective files.

Next morning I staked out her house. I had store-bought donuts and a mug of coffee. If there was a little Jack in the coffee, it was for flavor only. Sugar’s bad, right? I’d come prepared for a long stakeout. But it wasn’t. I was hunkered against a tree, enjoying a swig when I  heard, “Knock, knock.” Then again, “Knock, knock. Knock, knock.”

I drew my binocs. No kids at the door. But a flash of red. Hmmm. Then the knocking. And another flash of red. This was getting interesting. But all too easy to solve.

A flash of red...

A flash of red...

It was a case of another head-banging bird. I’d seen these kinds of things before. They can get ugly. But in this case, it wasn’t. The culprit was a bright red male Cardinal. He perched in a bush outside my neighbor’s home. Every few minutes he’d fly up and bang into the glass panel alongside the door. He’d flap and hover, pounding his beak into the glass like a woodpecker, then lose altitude and go back to the bush.

My neighbor opened her door and looked. Nothing. She slammed it. The Cardinal didn’t mind the slam and didn’t leave the bush. After a minute, he repeated the attack, banging his strong, seed-cracking beak against my neighbor’s glass. “Knock, knock, knock, knock.” But why?

Well, they don’t call me a bird detective for nothing. I looked at the attacking bird again, and could see that at this time of morning, with the sun at a certain angle, the glass reflected him perfectly. He was flying into a mirror-image of himself, doing battle with another big, red, tough and territorial Cardinal.

A Cardinal that looked just like him. This reflected bird would rest in a bush, then fly in a flurry toward him, head-to-head, beak against beak. It was all about territory. This was Spring and he was keeping other males off his turf. Not easy, when the other male is you.

Okay, mystery solved. Neighborhood kids exonerated. But how do we nix the knocks?

I told my neighbor to tape brown construction paper over the glass. It wouldn’t hurt her home’s curb appeal. And would be temporary. When mating season ended, the knocking would, too.

She did as I suggested and quiet returned to our street. My payment? A platter of home-made donuts. She was a pretty good baker, and grateful. Being a bird detective may sound odd, but hey, don’t knock it.

"Don't knock it."

"Don't knock it."

6 Responses to ““A Knock-Knock Mystery.””

  1. Heather says:

    I had my own friendly neighborhood cardinal tapping on the door every day this year, sometimes a little too early in the morning. I finally realised he was seeing his image in the shiny brass kickplate!. A little wax polish dulled the mirror and he left me in peace….

  2. norm says:

    Hmmmm. Woody Woodpecker meets Sam Spade. I have been dive bombed a few times by these fireballs, but never knew why….Mating season, or just their nasty tempers…….?

  3. Gizhawk says:

    Awesome! When I was growing up, I remember one season a woodpecker knocking a metal speed limit sign repeatedly… I was told louder knocks equal larger territory.

  4. Two-Fisted Bird Watcher says:

    Rob, you ask if that really happens. Answer: yes, the bird detective gets his cases from real-life experiences.

  5. J says:

    That’s a great story!

  6. rob says:

    Cute, he was fighting his reflection. Does that really happen?