It would be easy to surmise that the bird has simply gone cuckoo.
But a more likely explanation for the blackbird that is swooping down and whacking unsuspecting pedestrians in the back of the head in downtown Oak Harbor is that it’s just being an overprotective parent.
The bird has exhibited this odd behavior on Dock Street between Pioneer Way and Bayshore Drive for about two weeks, according to Darcy Patterson, manager of Skagit Cycle.
It’s become even more aggressive the past week, she said.
“I think there’s a nest in the blue sign and the eggs might’ve hatched,” Patterson said. “It’s really protective.”
THE SIGN is next to a sidewalk where Patterson and others who work downtown sometimes travel to reach their vehicles in a lower parking lot. Patterson was whacked once and even had the bird chase her around the corner nearly all the way to her store on Pioneer Way.
Dianne Nootenboom, owner of Just Because on Pioneer Way, said she knew she was in trouble Monday afternoon when she had to go to her car to retrieve an item. She held a sheet of paper over her head to fend off the bird, but it still got her.
“It attacks me every time,” she said, trying to hold back a laugh.
“It’s a crazy bird.”
THE WHACKS typically don’t hurt, just stun the unsuspecting target trying to come to grips with what just happened.
After all, it’s not every day one gets attacked by a bird.
Nootenboom admits that it reminded her a little of the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock classic film, “The Birds,” minus the horror.
Jay Adams of the Whidbey Audubon Society identified the culprit as a male Brewer’s Blackbird, adding that the yellow eye in a provided photograph gives it away.
Jill Hein, also with Whidbey Audubon, said the bird must be just defending a nearby nest.
“That’s the only reason it would attack,” said Connie Kemp, a longtime employee with Whidbey Wild Bird on Pioneer Way. “Tis the season to do that. Some birds are highly territorial.”
THE FEATHERED attacker already has gotten the attention of the Oak Harbor Police Department, which received one complaint near the lunch hour of June 23.
Sgt. Carl Seim said he believes the culprit is actually two parents acting in tandem. Following the complaint, he observed two blackbirds taking turns dive-bombing passersby and concluded that they were simply following parental instincts by guarding a nest in the area but wasn’t sure exactly where the nest was located and didn’t see either of them making contact with a person.
He thought the nest might be under the eaves of a building on Dock Street near the attack zone.
“THERE’S REALLY not much you can do,” Seim said. “The only way to get rid of them is to either get rid of the nest or exterminate them.”
“That’s something we wouldn’t do.
“Since technically that bird is wildlife, animal control can’t do anything about it. Animal control basically deals with domesticated animals.”
He said there are exceptions but believed the situation would resolve itself over time.
“If it continues over the summer then maybe we would get a hold of the owner of the building to see if maybe they would remove the nest — as long as there are no chicks in there,” Seim said.
MEANWHILE, IF you travel along Dock Street, stay on the lookout, particularly near the blue sign that points people to an electric car charging station.
If you want to avoid a surprise attack from a blackbird, don’t turn your back on the bird along that stretch because that’s when it will swoop down and go after you, Patterson said.
That strategy has worked every time for Patterson following the initial dive-bombing.
“You have to keep staring at it,” Patterson said.
“You can’t look away.”