Over time this page will highlight research results and outstanding questions to explore.


“One laughingly says, it must be an evil spirit in bird form. Others are inclined to regard it as an ‘ominous bird.’ One man, after watching it for some time, remarked that it saw its shadow in the window and mistook it for a lost mate.”

On 24 May 1879 one of the arch fathers of American ornithology, Joel Asaph Allen, read a letter by reader Ms. Coolidge in the Daily Times of Watertown, NY about a shadow boxing American Robin Turdus migratorius (see quote above) and became the first scientist to describe the behaviour, relating the newspaper story and adding his own observation of an American Yellow Warbler Setophaga aestiva, window bashing “with unabated persistency”, but “in other respects” [seemingly] “a perfectly sane bird”. Famous naturalist John Burroughs described an Eastern Bluebird Sialis sialis fighting its reflection in his essay Glimpses of Wildlife and the Australian poet C.J. Dennis wrote the funny story The Besting of Bombastes about a particularly pugnacious Superb Fairywren Malurus cyaneus.