When a Bird Flies into (Enters) Your House

Helen Kobek's picture

How to Get Them Out (Instructions that Work)

Photo of small bird in flight.

This can happen anywhere there are houses and birds. This story is about what to do when a bird flies into your house or apartment in Cambridge. Which can happen to anyone. Here, in Cambridge, measuring just about seven square miles, with so much wildlife, so many birds, especially at this time of year. There are also so many bird nests (where many birds live), you probably live within fifteen feet of a bird nest nestled into some eaves or foyer and you don’t even know it. In fact, you might even be sitting in a bird nest reading this article right now, unaware of it, because you weren’t paying precise attention as you made your way home while looking at your hand-held device. Take a second right now to look around and see if there is a mother robin breathing heavily above you, not giving you her worm, concerned about your enormous presence with her birdlings. Go ahead and climb down, go to your own place just around the corner, for goodness sake. And be aware that, if you did make yourself at home in a bird nest, you are much more likely to be house-guested by a baby bird in the near future. It’s called “house-trading,” and I’m just guessing about this.

Truly, even though Cambridge is very small, there’s lots of wildlife and other things compounding themselves all around the city. Here’s a rough imagined breakdown of how Cambridge is made up, square footage-wise:

Education: 10%
Air: 20%
Trees: 10%
Neighbors: 15%
Fruit: .079 percent
BandAids: .00000009 percent (fairly negligible)
Other: roughly 4%
Birds at this time of year: 40% or so. This is a guess, based on what I’ve noticed recently.

All these birds move very quickly when they feel like it. So they can enter your home quickly, and, if this hasn’t already happened for you, it probably will someday. It happened just the other day for us, here in East Cambridge. Here’s the not intricate process by which it happened, and you won’t believe how complex it was not:

I opened the front door to get the mail, and a young sparrow flew into the kitchen.

Just like that, within two seconds. Without asking if we were busy. Without saying “Hello, good day!” Just flew in, made a bee-line for the lower part of the kitchen drawers, trotted around the cabinet, birded down between the fridge and the wall, and settled into a dark corner. Where they sat quietly, breathing. We bent down and talked to them. “Hello! Wouldn’t you like to come out and go outside with your co-birds?” No answer. “Is there someone we can call for you? Your mom? Your mother? Big Bird? A trusted friend?” Still, no answer. We told them they were safe to come out, that the door was still open for them to leave. We asked if they were okay. Nothing. Total silence. What’s going on here? Are they hurt? No, they hadn’t flown into anything to get hurt by. Are they…dead? No, we could see them moving ever so slightly. But they weren’t responding to anything we were saying or asking. This went on for a cool ten minutes, and then it dawned on me what was happening. Oh, wow….How could I have missed this? This tiny, humble, little sparrow…this little bird was…this bird was….the bird…was…IGNORING US.

WHELL!!! I never!! This did not bode well for the lived experience of this particular houseguest staying with us for the next several seasons. If this bird was going to be so terribly rude as a houseguest for the first ten minutes of being hosted - which is when most guests are on their best behavior, right? – I could only IMAGINE living with this bird, and being IGNORED, while they eat our food, use our bathroom, have their little friends over for indoor parallel play/flight/games, don’t contribute to our heating or real estate taxes or anything. I wasn’t going to stand for this. No. Not.

“We have got to get that bird out of here while we still have our dignity,” I said to my partner. Fortunately, we agreed on this point. So we called the truly wonderful, loving souls at Cambridge Animal Commission, who dispatched someone immediately (expected arrival time was fifteen minutes). But we also quickly went online to find out how to get a bird to leave our house, and found exceptional instructions, which we followed, with success within sixty seconds. So we notified the Animal Commission that we were all set.

Here’s what we did, and this is what you can do, too. It’s easy. It doesn’t require touching, catching, frightening, or potentially harming a vulnerable, rude, little bird:

1. Close doors to other rooms so that, when the bird takes flight, they have limited choices about where to go.
2. Darken the room the bird is in by closing shades, and doors between rooms.
3. Leave one window or door open so the bird finds sunlight and flies towards it. Stay out of the way of its potential flight path.

4. Once this is set up, do something mildly irritating near the bird in order to motivate them to move from their hiding place. We loudly discussed the concept of a “chores chart” within earshot of the bird, which I'm pretty sure did the trick. For added measure, though, we also jostled the fridge just a bit. Immediately, the bird flew out from behind the fridge, and make a bee-line for the exit door fifteen feet away. The door they came in through.

The little bird flew out so quickly (because of the chores chart), we didn’t have a chance to offer them the information about finishing schools which we found online at the same time as seeking how to get the bird to leave.

So there you have our story, which ended well. I cannot speak highly enough of Animal Commission folks, with whom I’ve connected on a variety of concerns – mostly about the abundance of birds and our concerns about them. They are all of great expertise and comfort. We are fortunate to have such educated, good-hearted folks available for us when our homes are used as literal Airbnb's.