CHAPTER 4: Safety and Protection

Shelter Guide to Attracting Songbirds

Like all creatures, birds require adequate protective cover to shelter themselves from predators and inclement weather. While some birds do well in open areas and use bird houses for shelter, other birds may require more foliage for protection. For these songbirds, planting trees, vines and shrubs of varying heights around your property will help them to feel safe and protected.

For non-migratory birds that reside in your region year round, it’s also important to provide sources of cover that last through the winter months as well. Evergreen trees and shrubs are a great way to protect your feathered friends when other plants become sparse. Food and water sources should remain somewhat close to areas of shelter so that your songbirds can easily retreat to these areas when they need to find safety.

Predatory Dangers

Birds are at risk to numerous predators – they are particularly vulnerable while feeding or otherwise out in the open. Outdoor cats pose one of the biggest threats to your backyard birds. Pet cats should be kept indoors as much as possible. If feral cats are a problem in your neighborhood, avoid placing food and water where they can easily be reached by cats. Your dogs can also be harmful to nestling and fledgling birds, chasing them around the yard. One bite from your pooch is likely fatal. Keep an eye on your pup when you let him out for play or bathroom breaks.

In addition to cats and dogs, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, snakes and insects can be a menace to bird houses and nest boxes. Some of these predators will harm eggs or baby and adult birds. To prevent these dangers, place houses atop a smooth metal pole or attach a baffle to prevent climbers from entering. You should also check these spaces regularly to be sure there are no insect infestations or hiding snakes.

Avoid Chemicals

Birds are very sensitive creatures. Therefore, various household and lawn chemicals can be toxic to them. Harmful chemicals include a whole range of pesticides, insecticides, rodent poisons and lawn care products such as weed killers. It may not be possible for you to completely eliminate using these products around your home, particularly if you have problems with pests. If this is the case, be sure to place feeders, waterers and bird houses away from where you place or spray these toxic chemicals.

Some birds prefer ground feeding, so placing a tray feeder near the ground is most likely to draw birds such as sparrows, jays, juncos and other ground-feeding species. You could also scatter seed on the ground, though this will likely attract more squirrels. Also, be sure to hang feeders at varying heights with some space between to avoid too much competition.

Window Strikes

Window strikes can be caused by a number of reasons. However, most fatal strikes are a result of landscapes being reflected on the glass, confusing birds into thinking that the outdoor space is continuous. It is estimated that approximately 1 billion birds die each year due to these types of strikes. In other instances, you may notice birds attacking their own reflection in the window, assuming it’s a rival bird.

To make your windows safer for your favorite visiting birds, try some of these simple ideas:

  • Move your Feeders. This allows you to potentially reduce fatal strikes without making any changes to your actual window. Fatal strikes usually occur because a bird is flying at full speed when they come in contact with the feeder. Therefore, feeders, waterers and birdbaths are safest for resident birds when they are placed within 3 feet of windows or more than 30 feet away.
  • Close the Shades. When you’re not in the room or enjoying the views of your yard, close your shutters or blinds. By doing this, you can block the reflection that often confuses birds.
  • Install Screens. By adding screens outside of the glass, you can reduce tempting reflections and birds will notice the surface from further away and avoid flying into them. As a bonus, screens also allow you to keep windows open for the breeze, while preventing entrance for pests and insects.
  • Place Decals. Many stores sell a variety of stickers, decals or strips that can be placed on the outside of windows to make them stand out more to birds.

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