Several weeks back I got called to a house for a criminal mischief complaint. A guy had had a window in the back of his house smashed in. When I arrived, he told me nothing had been stolen, but the window had clearly been broken from the outside.
I looked at the window and was surprised to find feathers in the glass. I played my flashlight around a bit and found the carcass of a Ruffed Grouse underneath the window, behind a woodpile. The bird had slammed into the window as such speed that it had shattered the glass, blew the screen frame into the house, and broke its neck.
This would have been interesting enough, had it not happened again yesterday. Different house. My partner had gotten called by a guy doing property maintenance at a house who reported a window broken, it looked like someone had tried to break into the place. When she got there, a quick investigation found exactly the same thing. A dead Grouse under the window, with an added bonus of a second one on the floor inside the house.
I remember several years back a buddy and I were driving down the road in his truck. It was summer, and I had my right arm out the window and hand down on the side of the door. As we clipped along we heard a “THUD!” and there were feathers everywhere. It turns out, not one, but two of these birds had come flying from the woods on the side of the road and crashed into the side of the truck- side by side, and killed themselves. There was a chip in the paint on the door, not three inches from where my hand had rested.
I had assumed years back, that the two birds flying into the side of the truck was a strange fluke. These two cases logged into our blotter now of actual property damage had me doing some research this morning, and apparently, these birds are prone to something literally called ‘Crazy Flight’ which nobody seems to have a solid explanation for, but these birds can fly at speeds as high as 20 miles an hour while they’re doing it.
Imagine a bird the size of a chicken flying 20 miles an hour at a window….you’re probably going to think someone tried to break into your house upon first inspection, and there’s going to be significant damage to whatever it hits.
Weirdly, my research finds that this is a fairly common thing with these birds…except it’s usually associated with the fall and winter months. All three of my instances that I can account for have happened in the spring/summer. Different explanations are being offered to explain the phenomenon, from stomach worms, to juvenile idiocy, to being spooked by something- which if this is the case, that is absolutely, hands-down, the worst self-defense strategy in the natural world.
Ruffed Grouse are absolutely beautiful game birds, and I love hunting them. They’re a unique challenge in that its an active hunt, so you’re trying to flush them out of trees and underbrush. When you do, they take off quickly and with a drumming sound that will make your heart skip a beat if you’re not anticipating it. Merely getting a shot off sometimes is a challenge, and hitting them as they fly is something else entirely.
I can’t figure out how come they can be so evasive when I try to hunt them, but in the space of a month, I can account for three of them dead as a result of kamikaze attacks on people’s houses.
Regardless of why it happens, it is mind, and generally window-blowing when it does.
At any rate, we have two cases on file of forced entry into homes where the offender ends up dead.