Nova Scotia

Why did the robin attack the minivan? N.S. family solves a mystery for the birds

A rather persistent robin has been attacking a Sydney River family's van and house.

'It's been an ongoing bird war,' says Sydney River woman

Cassie Gilmour holds a decoy owl next to her minivan that has been under attack from a robin. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

Earlier this month, Cassie Gilmour noticed a robin on her silver minivan.

The bird flew repeatedly at the van's windows, mirrors, and even the shiny metal border around the windows. It was scratching, pecking and flying up against the vehicle.

"It's been an ongoing bird war," said Gilmour, who lives in Sydney River, N.S.

The bizarre behaviour led to scratches and even a small crack in the windshield. The feisty bird has also been attacking several of the windows on her house.

Scratches on Gilmour's van from the robin. (Cassie Gilmour)

Gilmour took to the internet for advice on how to make the bird stop. Some suggested the colour red might deter the robin, so she taped pieces of red construction paper in the van's windows and covered part of her vehicle with a red blanket. 

When that didn't work, she tried putting out some plastic owls to intimidate the robin but to no avail.

Then a local bird expert said the only solution is to cover up any reflective surfaces.

"I'm going to presume it's a male robin and male robins defend a small territory around where they nest and wherever the female is that they've mated with is building a nest," said Dave McCorquodale, a professor of biology at Cape Breton University.

"If they see a reflection on a window and any smooth surface, they're going to make the conclusion that it's not them, it's another male."

Gilmour's minivan is covered in scratches and droppings from the robin. (Cassie Gilmour)

It's a little unusual the robin is being so persistent but McCorquodale said it should settle down soon. A nest is now perched on a ledge on Gilmour's house.

"When they're feeding young out of the nest or in the nest, the males are not going to be too concerned about what's going on in the mirror," he said.

"It's got better things to do."

An egg Gilmour recently found in the nest. (Cassie Gilmour)

For Gilmour's part, she has accepted the bird is here to stay for the next few weeks. Although she took down the first attempt at a nest, she decided to let it be when it tried again. Finding an egg in the nest sealed the deal.

"Being a mother, I don't have heart to take the second one down," she said.


Brittany Wentzell

Current Affairs Reporter/Editor

Brittany Wentzell is based in Sydney, N.S., as a reporter for Information Morning Cape Breton. She has covered a wide range of issues including education, forestry and municipal government. Story ideas? Send them to