Handling predators in your backyard is an important part of being a responsible birder. Birdhouses give lots of birds opportunities to thrive. However, nesting boxes can be an alluring and simple target for predators if the proper precautions are not taken. Read on to learn how to protect your birdhouse from predators which put our feathered friends at risk.
Common predators attracted to birdhouses
Predators which cause trouble for backyard birds include raccoon, snakes, squirrels and both domestic or feral cats. Different areas will attract different predators, but cats and squirrels exist in almost every neighborhood.
Installing in a predator free spot
The easiest way to help protect your birdhouse is to install it in an area which naturally keeps predators at bay. Keep these points in mind when installing your bird’s nesting box:
- Place birdhouses away from low-hanging tree branches or any other “perch” which a squirrel or cat could jump from to reach the box. Industrial little squirrels can jump as far as eight feet, so beware!
- Nearly all nesting boxes need to be placed at least ten feet off the ground.
- Use a squirrel baffle to protect pole-mounted houses from squirrels and cats.
Keeping out cats and raccoon
Cats are natural predators for birds and both domestic and feral felines can be found roaming almost every neighborhood. Intelligent little raccoon may seem harmless enough, but once they learn your birdhouse is a consistent food source, they’ll be back over and over again.
Just like you’ve seen in a Tom & Jerry cartoon, cats and raccoon will leap onto the top of birdhouses from nearby tree branches, rooftops or any other close enough surface. Then, they will bend their heads over the sides to reach the inside of the box–a terrifying greeting for any small bird!
Keep raccoon and cats away by adding a roof extension to your birdhouse. It should extend five or six inches past the entrance to the box and prevents most cats from being able to reach inside.
Guards and/or baffles are important additions for any nesting boxes mounted on wooden poles, to prevent cats from climbing them.
Protecting birds from snakes
There isn’t much a snake likes better than a fresh egg. Keep bird eggs safe by adding a metal collar underneath the birdhouse to keep snakes from climbing up from the bottom of a mount. Keep in mind, big snakes may not be deterred by this. If you have large snakes in your area (and most of us do), you’ll need a Noel guard to be safe.
In addition to guards, keep boxes away from trees to prevent snakes from reaching the birdhouse from above.
Whichever protection you need, be sure to keep a predator plan in mind when installing your backyard birdhouse. This way, you’ll keep birds safe and coming back to your yard for years to come!