I was walking along a path in the park last summer when I was hit in the back of the head by a small object. I yelped in surprise and turned just in time to see a black bird with a red-orange spot on each wing flying away. I’d been the victim of a fly-by pecking. After I got home, I googled “Chicago bird attacks” and found several articles about red-winged blackbirds dive-bombing people and animals; one from Time speculated that blackbirds in cities are more aggressive than their rural counterparts. I believe it: on recent trips to the park I’ve watched the birds attack a sparrow, a crow, and even a pair of Canada geese that had been swimming peacefully in the lagoon. I’ll admit that I’m a little jumpy now when I see one, especially since it’s not legal to fight back—red-winged blackbirds are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which means anyone who harms them could face fines or jail time.