Wild birds, especially those at our feeders, are subject to many types of predators. Read the following tips and learn how to protect your wild birds against predators, including cats, hawks, raccoons, snakes and squirrels. Perhaps one of the biggest threats to birds, feral and pet cats kill millions of birds each year. And de-clawing cats or putting bells on them doesn’t work. You may not be able to stop cats from coming into your yard, but there are several things you can do to help stop them from preying on your birds.
Here’s what you can do. Try using chicken wire or rabbit fencing to encircle your bird feeders and birdbaths. Get it at least 4-6 feet high to prevent cats from jumping over it. Scare devices also work, such as ultrasonic cat repellents or devices that spray water when motion is detected. Animal repellent granules work to an extent, but are best used in conjunction with another, stronger method. Animal repellent tablets are a safe and effective option, using hot pepper to deter animals from visiting your yard, including deer and squirrels–and they work well.
Hanging bird feeders high inside a tall bush such as a lilac will keep cats from ambushing feeding birds—they can’t jump up through all the small branches. You can also pole mount a feeder inside a dense shrub. Or hang bird feeders on a wire strung between two trees—high enough that cats won’t be able to jump up to them. Put birdbaths near a tree rather than dense bushes that can hide a waiting cat. Birds will be able to bathe and drink and then quickly fly to a high branch. Don’t use a ground bath unless you can encircle it with cat-proof fencing.
Snakes are predators, too. Snakes often attack bird houses, taking the eggs or eating nestlings. To keep them out of birdhouses, put your birdhouse up on a pole, out in the open and away from trees that snakes can drop from. Then use a canister-type baffle on the pole—make sure there is no space between the pole and where it goes through the top of the baffle.
Seal the area with duct tape if there’s a space there where snakes could wriggle through. Never put birdhouses on fences, trees or the sides of buildings if snakes are a problem in your area.
Squirrels, raccoons and bigger birds–oh my! Squirrels and raccoons are notorious for attacking bird houses, eating the eggs and nestlings—as are some birds. The easiest way to deter these predators is to put an extension on the entry hole of the birdhouse—also called a bird guardian. Paws and bigger birds cannot maneuver through the extension and reach down to the nest inside. Curious paws and beaks can only reach so far, which is why the extension works so well. Protect all of your beautiful bluebirds with this pole-mounted, snake-proof birdhouse. Make sure the birdhouse is on a sturdy pole, sunk well into the ground. A squirrel or raccoon’s weight on top of the nest box is enough to tip it or even bend it to the ground.
Hawks, particularly Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks, are also known for hanging around bird feeders, picking off an occasional meal. These birds of prey are adept at catching songbirds in mid-air as they come and go from bird feeders. If you have a hawk taking birds at your feeder, the best thing to do is to take the bird feeder down for a while until the hawk leaves. Your birds will be fine finding food in summer. However, if it’s winter and you still want to feed the birds, don’t do it at the bird feeder while the hawk is around. Instead, sprinkle seed under your evergreens or dense, brushy shrubs where birds can eat under cover.
If your land is bordered by woods, you can sprinkle seed along the edge for birds to find or put a seed block there among the brush. Providing birds with their necessities in areas where they don’t have to come out in the open is the best way to handle a hawk problem.
Here’s a quick summary:
- If you have cats, place fencing 4-6 feet high around your bird feeder
- If you have hawks, scatter bird seed under bushes and shrubs, where birds enjoy extra protection
- If you have raccoons, use a strong pole when pole mounting your bird feeder, so raccoons can’t easily tip the whole thing over
- If you have snakes or raccoons, add a predator guard extension or bird guardian around the birdhouse entry hole to protect any nestlings
- If you have squirrels, place bird feeders 10-12 feet away from trees, buildings or anything squirrels can jump from
With these tips, you’ll be able to take care of the birds in your backyard, no problem…Happy Birding!