Discourage Predators

Protect your birds from cats.

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.

Click here to browse all of our squirrel baffles and guards

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!

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  • Lynn Loucks January 28, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    This is an excellent article! The fencing off of the area around feeders is what I have found works best for cats. Also using “step in” fence posts placed close together around & under the feeders is a great deterent. These “step in” fence posts are the plastic kind used for electric tape for our horses. My husband thinks it looks like some sort of shrine or Native American burial ground.

  • Sue February 12, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    I can I find these ‘extension for entrance’ for the bird house?
    I once saw one when I was window shopping somewhere on a trip but have not seen them in the area where I live? I have problems with with ‘something that is getting into the birdhouses, sometimes knocking the roof off’.

  • R. Brune February 18, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Hi Sue,
    Sorry I just saw this message. We sell the extensions at Duncraft. Go to Accessories and then Bird house Accessories and you’ll find them there. Or you can search using the search term Guardian and that should find them for you also.

  • Wilma Spinner February 20, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I have a predator falcon or hawk taking pigeons in my back yard. I watched one standing over his prey in the yard. At first his back was to me, but then he turned to face me and stared me down with his wings spread. The chest markings do not resemble the hawk in your picture, rather they are a soft tan in a scallop pattern on each breast feather. I was able to snap a few photos with my phone which is what I had at hand (my camera is now near my sliding doors). I would appreciate any help in identifying my predator. I think peregrines are endangered on Long Island. Also I think this is his(her?) third strike as I have found pigeon feathers and parts before but attributed it to the neighborhood cats. So far no songbirds appear to have been taken.

  • R. Brune February 22, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Hi Wilma,

    If you get pictures, you can post them on Facebook and maybe some of the birding people can help you identify the bird. To become a Duncraft Facebook Fan, just click the link on our homepage here.

  • Jennifer Hernandez February 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    I have what I believe is a white-tailed hawk hunting my mini dachshund. I live in a sub-division of garden homes in Baton Rouge, LA. Any suggestions on how to protect my little dog?

  • Duncraft February 28, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Hi Jennifer, The books say these hawks eat small rodents. I think even a mini dachschund might be too big. Why don’t you post your question on our facebook page? I’m sure you’d get lots of answers.

  • Shelly April 13, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I have a red-shouldered hawk swooping down to pick up my 3 pound yorkshire terrier. I have to ‘watch her like a hawk’ and can’t let her out in the backyard alone.