About Those Birds at Verizon Center


Ace photo by @WashCapsRock

On Saturday, I went to my first Washington Capitals game of the season because of the bet I lost to the Brouwer Rangers (I find it easier to cover games from home). While watching Troy Brouwer point and laugh at me in spandex was something I’ll never forget, the highlight of my day actually didn’t involve humans at all.

During the first period, as I sat in my perch (sorry, couldn’t help myself) in section 402, I noticed something through the visor of my motorcycle helmet: two fat birds frantically flying around Verizon Center looking for somewhere to land. You don’t get to see this kind of stuff on TV.

The birds swooped to and fro. Every few minutes they’d fly towards people in the crowd, making Caps fans scramble and hit the deck. While I focused on their escapades during the third period, I caught myself chanting bird! bird! bird! I also confused one of the birds for the puck after Alex Ovechkin chipped the biscuit into the air towards Jay Beagle. It almost helped me forget about the terrible game I was supposed to be watching. Almost.

Anyways, for whatever reason, the whole situation cracked me up (that’s an egg joke). Now I am filled with questions: How did these birds get into Verizon Center in the first place? Why are they still here now? (The first Verizon Center bird was spotted in December. It was skinny then.) Is Slapshot involved?

And what kind of birds are these?

Lucky for us, my future cousin-in-law Ian Gardner is the biggest bird nerd in the history of bird nerds. He’s currently at Penn State studying for his M.S. in Forest Resources, he has his B.S. in Wildlife Conservation from Juniata College, and he’s been involved in the Pennsylvania birdwatching community for the past 5 years. I sent him some photos of the birds and asked him for the low-down.

That is a European Starling. They are an invasive species first brought to the United States by a Shakespeare enthusiast in the late 1800’s because they were mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. After 13 attempts, they finally naturalized to the eastern US and have spread across the continent since. They can survive off of pretty much anything. They are omnivores that eat anything from Verizon Center scraps to seeds, berries, and insects. They are found in urban and agricultural areas and nest in any cavity they can find. And they are legal to hunt/kill so if you want to get rid of them at the Verizon Center you are legally allowed to trap and kill them.

So unfortunately, these starlings are like the bird version of stink bugs, and they will only get more audacious and homely with a diet of popcorn, half eaten pizza crusts, and cotton candy.

But, as silly as it seems, I don’t want the birds to be trapped and released.

I think they give Verizon Center some personality, a certain je ne sais quoi. Like: how funny is this? They love basketball too!

Killing them seems unnecessary. Verizon Center is already bird heaven. After every game, it becomes a bird buffet of discarded Papa Johns crusts and stale nachos.

Plus, imagine how many pixels would be created if a bird lands on Alex Ovechkin’s shoulder as he scores. That would easily be an all-time top 5 human/animal athletic team-up moment. It would be the exact opposite of this.

I hope Ted Leonsis knows what he has here. He’s sitting on a gold mine nest egg. He shouldn’t let it fly away or whatever. (That’s another bird joke. That makes five.)


Photo: @dolge21

Tagged with:
  • Yeah, really. What should these two birds be named? Can we come to a consensus?

  • erinamanda13

    I saw one during the Caps v Flyers game in March. I also thought it provided a nice distraction from the lead we were blowing. I vote they stay. 🙂

  • VeggieTart

    I’ve seen the birds at a number of games–I assume they’re the same ones. They seem to like the area where the Caps defend twice. (I sit in the club level over the goalie’s right shoulder.) When we left through the F Street entrance Saturday, there were birds flitting near the doors as well.

  • Dmitry

    If the Caps miss the playoffs during the first bird season, it might be time to sent them up to Baltimore. They’ll fit in better.

  • Simonezero

    Definitely have a few bats in there too.

  • That’s actually Sidney Crosby.

  • Andrew Pang

    We are in 101 – on Saturday, one of these starlings landed on the awning leading to the Bruins dressing room. We were all yelling for it to crap on the Bruins bench, but it didn’t listen.

  • Danielle Colassard

    The birds get into VC via the garage door. It opens so the away team bus and shipments can get inside. They fly in to get out of the cold and they know they can get food in there. Win win for them

  • Steve Killmon

    Star and Ling? Or is that too easy?

  • Clifton B

    Ovi and Backy? Ovechbird and Beekstrom?

  • BillB

    At least these birds can fly…unlike those flightless Penguins.

  • Hockey mom

    Joe “Tweet” and Craig “Featherlin”?

  • Hockey mom

    I just saw Laich’s tweet…If they were love birds we could go with Brooksy and Julianne…

  • Stanley Cup in Washington

    Buy out Laich.
    Trade Green for anything. Dump salary. Buy him out if necessary.
    Re-sign Grabovski.
    Trade Brouwer, Johansson, Burakovsky/1st round pick (either or both) for Shea Weber.
    Hire an established, winning NHL coaching staff.
    Make every effort to attract free agents to Washington, overpay if you must, the window is closing.
    Moulson – 4.5 mil
    Ott – 3.5 mil
    Greene – 3.5 mil
    Stanley Cup

  • You forgot “make birds in charge of marketing.”

  • You guys are actually creative. I would have gone with something like Frank and Barry Bird.

  • Stanley Cup in Washington

    Weagle for GM.
    I’m all for anyone who can make this happen

  • CDizz

    An attractive female appears!
    Use *witty charm*
    It’s super ineffective!

  • Bev Miller Bellamy

    How about McPhee and Oates? Maybe ALL will eventually “fly away”???

  • Rhino40

    How do they not get snagged in the safety netting?

  • oryp

    Yeah how about we don’t get rid of Burakovsky…

  • Rhino40

    Open note to Ted:

    Whatever is done about management, coaching, roster, etc. IMO one important move for you to make as Caps owner is to ditch the big wordmark as the team crest on the sweaters. I’m not saying go back to the hideous black/copper/teal scheme, but to introduce all-new sweaters that feature a proper crest in the form of a big honkin’ Weagle. The wordmark–if it must stay–could swap places with where the smaller weagles are now.

    Why? Well, I don’t want to go all post hoc ergo propter hoc here (which is Latin for “having a blatant disregard for statistical facts and a propensity for magical thinking”), but take a look at the sweaters of the last 20 years’ Cup champions and only two of them used a wordmark for a crest: Anaheim (2007) and Dallas (2000). Neither of whom had a Cup before, and neither has done so since.

    I don’t know what the real business reasoning was behind making the third jersey in “throwback” style, but can’t look at it without being reminded an era that contained of rare, brief glimmerings of hope and glory in a vast dark ocean of futility, pain and frustration (c.f., Worst. Inaugural. Season. Ever.)

    I’m not saying change the colors altogether. I’m saying still have a red for home, a white for away, and may be a blue for a third, plus replace the current wordmark with a bigger version of the smallish Weagles that appear on the shoulders currently. Like this

    You can’t lose with this, Ted: New sweaters will generate new merchandising revenue (which I know you like), and maybe–just maybe–the team’s fortunes on the ice might improve.

    Just my opinion…and I could be wrong.

  • NovaCath

    Those two birds were not the infamous 2006 rally pigeon at a Caps Pens game. That bird went down and landed on the ice. Kolzig tried to swat it away with his stick.

  • Barrett

    Good thing you are not in charge.

  • Harjot Singh

    Ive seen you comment this same thing on different posts. Why?

  • Stanley Cup in Washington

    Yeah, I’m sure I (or anyone else for that matter) could never compare to GMGM’s impressive record of success

  • Stanley Cup in Washington

    Gotta give to get.
    Burakovsky doesn’t help us now and probably doesn’t for at least another year.
    Ovi is just getting older

  • Stanley Cup in Washington

    Just putting it out there.
    People read these things, you know

  • Dave Dusseau

    Sorry, totally disagree! I have been a Caps fan since their begining in 74/75. I love their current uniforms, home, away, and alternate!

  • Harjot Singh

    Oh I was just wondering.

  • Chris Cerullo

    That Weber trade is horrid for Nashville. Matt Greene is basically John Erskine at this point, had an awful year. Also, trading Burakovsky is the last thing we should do.

  • Stanley Cup in Washington

    Burakovsky doesn’t play defense.
    He also doesn’t play in the NHL and he may never play in the NHL

  • Veloj

    A whole lot classier than the flies that are always flying around in the camera shot from overhead at Boston Garden. What’s the deal with that? Is there a Whitey Bulger victim stashed up in the rafters?

  • Barrett

    It certainly doesn’t start by trading their last first round pick and 2nd leading goal scorer.

  • Chris Cerullo

    That logic is literally ridiculous.

  • cap fan.

    yes!!! let’s do it!! Someone tell Ovi and Backy this and see what they think! Would be funny to see their reactions.

  • Graham Dumas

    Rangers 1994. (WARNING: I may fail to grasp the core concept of your post. But because I am an idiot, I’m still posting in response.)

  • Seth Malaguerra

    Hello little birds. Do any of you know how to coach a hockey team?

  • Laura F.

    Duh…they must be Slapshot’s kids! 😉 Hope they poop on the Caps (supposed to be good luck) and attack the visiting teams!

  • CJ

    Bird Poop can carry as many as 60 different types of diseases in it. Aside from not wanting to get pooped on during a game reguardless that makes it a bit less than comforting to know that someone likes the pests.


  • Brackaphobia

    Some possible bird names:

    Joel Bird
    Joe Birdinati
    Alex Ovechwing
    Nicklas Beakstrom
    Jay Beakle
    Evgeny KAWsnetsov (it’s a stretch)
    Mikhail Grabirdski
    George McFly

  • Stanley Cup in Washington

    Troy Brouwer shouldn’t be our secong leading goal scorer.
    That is a problem.
    Troy Brouwer is a third line defensive specialist LW.
    Just ask Chicago

  • thiazzi

    There were always a ton of birds in the Caps Centre, too.

  • Rhino40

    You are correct that the Rangers have used a wordmark,but for much of their (modern) history they have been identified by a shield with words on it as opposed to a wordmark.

  • Graham Dumas

    True, but, and not to be too pedantic, your post was about jerseys (which I refuse to call sweaters, because #BlameCanada). Specifically jerseys at the time of Cup-winning. When they won in ’94, the Rags were wearing their standard then-home Whites, which were decorated only by the nasty, nasty word “RANGERS.”


    BTW, I can’t stand the Rangers. I may hate them more than P-burg. But as a native New Yorker, I will always remember and have fond associations with Mark Messier’s face when he got the Cup. I want nothing more than to see the same look on Ovi’s face.

  • Barrett

    A third line defensive specialist doesn’t score 22 goals in 78 games. He also didn’t play on the third line for the Blackhawks during their cup run, he played on the second line with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. You don’t put a 22 goal scoring “defensive specialist” in your top six during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

  • Stanley Cup in Washington

    He would never score that much if he wasn’t on our powerplay.
    In fact, he never has.
    He is misused on this team and is now completely replaceable for the role he is playing.
    Unless he goes back to LW, but we could get something for him at the draft

  • Barrett

    He’s consistently around a 20 goal scorer. You want players to score on the power-play. I don’t see any issue with that. Both Brouwer and Ward get their PP goals from the dirty areas infront of the net – a place nobody else cares to score from. If he never scored 5 on 5, you’d have a case, but the entire team struggles in that department (note: Ovechkin would be at 26 goals minus all his PPG)

    95% of the players on this roster are not the problem. The coaching staff and how they use those players are the problem. Just look at the line combinations. Penner on the 4th line? Kuznetsov bouncing up and down the lines? Grabovski on the wing opposite Ovechkin with Beagle centering the first line? About the only thing Oates has done is make a good PP unit, which we knew he could. He is terrible in every other facet of the game.

  • Gordon Arsenoff

    “That’s a European starling.”

    You mean the bird or Kuznetsov?

  • Stanley Cup in Washington

    Yep. Oates sucks.
    Never going to get any higher value for Brouwer than right now though, and Wilson can take all his minutes.
    If he doesn’t, he should be in Hershey