Problem Birds

Each year hundreds of homeowners have to deal with problem birds in their backyards.



Woodpecker Problem Birds

Woodpeckers reward us by consuming millions of noxious insects, including carpenter ants and carpenter bees.

While it's rare, an occasional woodpecker may single out a house for drumming, or worse, for a nest or dining site. Each spring, when males set up territories and attract their mates, these woodpeckers make their presence known by "drumming." Normally they pick a resonant dead tree trunk. As more homeowners remove dead trees, woodpeckers may turn to metal gutters, house siding and television antennas.

While drumming may be aggravating, it usually doesn't physically damage your house. You can eliminate the drumming noise by deadening the resonant area.

Fill the hollow space with caulk.

Then distract the bird from the drumming site by using scare techniques: balloons, a child's pinwheel, flash tape, and strings of shiny, noisy tin can lids, wind chimes and/or pulsating water sprinklers. Visual Devices

If that doesn't work, create a physical barrier by screening the drumming site with hardware cloth, sheet metal or nylon "bird netting."

You might encourage the bird to leave altogether by creating an alternative drumming site nearby (but away from your bedroom window).

Here's how to make a drum: Fasten two overlapping boards, the back board firmly secured and the front (covered with metal sheeting) nailed to it at only one end.

Serious structural damage occurs when woodpeckers drill holes in unpainted, untreated plywood and cedar siding, window frames and roofing. While no one knows for sure what attracts a woodpecker to a house, your first step in eliminating the problem is to check for signs of insect infestation -- carpenter ants, carpenter bees and cluster flies.

You may want to consult with a licensed pest control operator on how to remove the insects and eliminate future infestations. It may be as simple as caulking their tunnels and painting with exterior latex.

If you can't find any insects, try "scare" techniques.

If you have a bird feeder that attracts woodpeckers, you might think removing your feeder will cause the bird to leave. Just the opposite may be true.

Keeping a feeder full of suet may encourage the birds not to look at your siding for food.

If you have dead trees in your yard, you might think removing them (and the insects they harbor) will solve woodpecker problems.

Again, the opposite may be true. Cutting down dead and decaying trees deprives these birds of nesting, drumming and food sites, and may force them to take a look at your house.

Fruit Eating Problem Birds

It's early summer. You've planted your garden. Your trees and shrubs are full of fruit. Before you get a chance to enjoy them, your crops are harvested by birds.

Again, barriers are the most effective deterrents.

Hot caps (opaque plastic "hats" used to cover young plants in the spring to prevent freezing) and inverted crates can keep starlings from pulling up small plants.

Netting may keep starlings, catbirds, orioles, robins, blackbirds and jays from your grapes, apples and raspberries. Scare techniques may repel birds from gardens.

Placing feeders filled with sunflower, millet, nectar, and peanuts nearby may also distract birds.

Fish Eating Problem Birds

Herons and egrets at the edge of a pond create a picture of tranquility. That is unless these and other fish-eating birds (gulls, terns, kingfishers, diving ducks, pelicans, cormorants and ospreys) are dining on your prize koi.

First try scare techniques, then exclusion.

While they may be unsightly, physical barriers can deter most fish-eating birds.

For small ponds, complete screening with bird netting may be effective. Properly spaced monofilament lines suspended over a pond may exclude gulls (every 4 feet), mergansers (every 2 feet), and herons (every foot.

Perimeter fences provide some protection from wading birds.

Roosting Problem Birds

You don't have to park your car under a tree to discover why people have no patience with roosting birds. Everyone knows bird droppings pile up under a roost.

An occasional bird perching on a tree limb, gutter or fence may not be a serious concern. But problems arise when pigeons perch on your balcony railing, sparrows select your carport rafter and gulls bask on your boat dock piling.

When starlings, grackles, blackbirds and crows roost by the thousands in trees -- they create a serious health hazard.

Physical barriers may be the most effective way to control birds roosting on buildings.

To eliminate birds on ledges try porcupine wire, stretching a "slinky" toy, or stringing rows of monofilament, one or two inches above each other about two feet apart.

Sheet metal or hardware cloth placed at an angle on ledges may also make roosting more difficult.

Pruning may eliminate birds roosting in trees. Removing some cover may be enough to make the roost site less attractive. Scare tactics may provide temporary relief.

Nesting Problem Birds

Birds often pick what seem to be the strangest places to nest:

  • in your gutter, clothes drier or kitchen fan vent (house sparrows and starlings)
  • above your front door (barn swallows)
  • in a bucket in your garage (Carolina wrens)
  • in your hanging basket (house finches)
  • a pile of twigs on your window sill (doves)
  • in the shrubs next to your front door (mockingbirds)

The federal and state laws that protect wild birds also protect their nests and eggs. You must have a federal permit to disturb the adults, nests or eggs.

The most effective way to eliminate these problems is to discourage the bird before the nest is built by offering an alternative artificial "nest" nearby, but out of your way.

If that doesn't work, contact a federal or state agent for advice. Resist the temptation to destroy the nest or harass the adults.

House (or English) sparrows, pigeons and starlings are not protected by law. You may remove the nests, eggs and adults.

Hawks and Owls

If you feed wild birds, expect a visit from a hungry hawk or owl. Raptor s at a bird feeding station are a problem only when they perch nearby, all day.

You won't see any birds at your feeders. Rather than get upset, consider yourself fortunate to get a close-up look at these magnificent birds.

Stop filling your feeders for a couple of days, and the raptors will look for dinner elsewhere. 


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