If you are a backyard birder, you probably do a lot to attract birds of all types to your yard with feeders, plants and flowers, birdbaths, and more. But while you’ve created an oasis for them, there are still many threats that loom large every day. Public enemy number one is the domestic feline, for example. So how can you help? Here is a list of things you can do to protect songbirds and keep them coming back year after year.
7 Easy Things You Can Do To Protect Songbirds In Your Yard
- Keep your cats indoors at all times, and ask the neighbors to do the same.
- If you are unable to keep cats indoors, have them wear a bell on their collar. It gives birds the alert they need (and studies show bells do not cause hearing loss in cats).
- Keep strays out. If you have a problem with stray cats coming into your yard, try placing fencing four to six feet high around your birdfeeder, though some cats are agile climbers and this might discourage only the lazier ones.
- Protect birds from windows. Birds will sometimes hit windows and get injured or killed. They don’t see the clear glass and fly into it by accident, or they see their own reflections and get hurt fighting with that “other bird.” Half-opened blinds or screens can help make your windows less reflective. You can also purchase window decals at your local garden center.
- Purchase a window feeder that attaches right to the exterior glass. This helps the birds know the windows are there and allows you an up-close look at the birds from inside your house.
- Give them a chance against hawks. Hawks are another songbird predator. You can provide natural cover, such as dense trees or shrubs, where birds can hide from hawks circling overhead. Make sure this shelter is within ten feet of feeders so birds can flee in time when threatened. You might also want to shield your feeders under an awning, umbrella, gazebo, or low tree branches, so hawks can’t see the songbirds from above. If hawks are a frequent threat, avoid ground feeding, which makes songbirds especially vulnerable.
- Manage the Bully Birds. By putting out feeders to attract cute little songbirds, you might also be inviting starlings, blackbirds, grackles, house sparrows, and pigeons. These greedy birds are known as “bully birds” because they dominate at feeders, scaring off smaller birds.
While some jostling at feeders is normal, if bully birds are keeping songbirds away, you can take steps to help out the little guys. Most bully birds have different food preferences than songbirds. Bullies tend to like sunflower seeds, corn, wheat, and millet. Putting out birdfeed the bully birds don’t like (but songbirds do) will help dissuade the bully crowd.
To attract finches, for example, fill hanging tube feeders with only thistle seed. To feed cardinals and nuthatches, fill hopper or tray feeders with safflower seed.
Bully birds are usually larger than desirable songbirds, so it helps to enclose feeders with hardware cloth or chicken wire that only has openings big enough to allow smaller birds through, but keeps bully birds out. There are also cage-style tube and tray feeders available. Make sure the feeder’s seed holder is a few inches inside the cage so bullies can’t reach the seed with their long beaks. Look out below your feeders, too. Bully birds are often eager to get at the seeds songbirds have spilled onto the ground, so keep the area clean.
What do you do to protect songbirds in your yard? Share your ideas with us in the comments below!
Judy Kneiszel is a freelance writer from De Pere, Wisconsin. She contributes to regional and national magazines and newsletters, writing on a wide variety of topics including food, farming, health, renewable energy, and running a small business.