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Protecting Against Predators in a Bird Garden

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 A juvenile Cooper's hawk, which preys on smaller birds, among other animals.

A juvenile Cooper's hawk, which preys on smaller birds, among other animals.

It’s natural for smaller birds to be hunted by hawks and other birds of prey, but it’s also natural for us to feel guilty if the garden we’ve designed to attract songbirds becomes something of a buffet for predators. Here are strategies to protect garden birds against hawks and other predators:

  • If a hawk begins to pick off smaller birds visiting bird feeders in your yard, take the feeders down for a couple of weeks. The hawk will move to other hunting grounds.
  • Provide cover for songbirds by planting trees and shrubs of different sizes and habits. Include evergreens for winter hiding spots (and shelter from the weather).
  • Cats as well as wildlife like foxes and coyotes can prey on small birds in the garden. To protect the birds in your garden, keep your cat indoors when birds are most present and active in your garden (or even better, at all times). Plant shrubs near feeders to give the birds quick cover, but not so close that the shrubs double as cover for a stalking cat or fox. Five to ten feet is a good distance.
  • Nesting birds face predators of their own. Raccoons and snakes may raid a nest for eggs or baby birds. If you set up nesting boxes, make sure they’re predator proof. A steep roof, or one that extends five inches past the front of the box, makes it hard for raccoons to sit and reach down and into the entry hole. Special baffles are designed to stop predators from climbing up to the nest box.
  • Squirrels also bother birds in nest boxes; they chew around the entry hole to enlarge it for their own use. Choose a box with a reinforced hole or add a metal ring hole (available at birding stores) to the box.

Image credit: By Calibas - Own work, Public Domain