One of the problems with spending so much of my life trying to educate the world about birds is that it sort of sets me up to be a know-it-all. And it's ever so easy for birds to prove how little I really know.
I have a lot of friends on Salon Magazine's Table Talk forum, and when anyone there has a bird question, it makes its way to me. Right after answering a spate of bird ID questions, I got two questions of more practical importance, and in both cases my advice sort of backfired. One woman was seeing a beautiful budgie at her feeder. The bird wasn't associating with the feral population of New York budgies, and was pure white, so it was almost definitely an escaped pet. I suggested that she get a cage and leave it open in the yard to see if the budgie, like Ogden Nash's Custard the Dragon, was just seeking a nice safe cage. So she went out and bought a cage, and voila! The budgie disappeared altogether. I hope that if it needs a home, it comes back.
Then, another friend was having problems with a raven picking at the stuff between her roof rack and the roof of her minivan. I suggested hanging some helium balloons up there. In my experience rehabbing, crows and jays were terrified of helium balloons, and I figured it was because nothing in nature acts the way helium-filled objects do, "falling up." So she got some nice shiny balloons and put them on her car. And here's what happened:
I found some helium balloons Sunday, in several colors. This morning, as soon as I got to work, I tied them to the roof rack of my minivan, one at each corner.I wish she could have gotten video!! But I guess it's time to take my sign in, huh?
No raven for about an hour. Then he landed on the ground next to the van and walked around it a couple of times, all the while eyeing the balloons.
And then he flitted up to the rack, and walked around on top, cocking his head at the balloons. He inspected them for quite a while, pulling at the strings, tentatively pecking at the balloons.
He's already deflated the blue one - scared him when it popped and he flew off, but I think he figured out pretty quick why it popped, cuz he came right back and popped the yellow one.
The red one and the purple one survive. He appears to like purple, cuz that's the one he's admiring himself in now.
I guess he hasn't heard the story about balloons falling up confusing ravens, cuz it hasn't bothered this wiseguy a bit.