Backyard Bird Predators

Who Is The Number One Backyard Bird Predator?

  1. The number one backyard bird predators are fed and housed by people.
  1. Many people think of "birds of prey" as the number one enemy of backyard birds, but they are not!
  1. This predator kills more wild birds than any other predator. 
  1. It is responsible for the deaths of 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds a year in the US alone.
  1. That is a huge number when the estimated population total for wild birds in North America is 10 - 20 billion.

House Cats & Homeless/Feral Cats are the #1 Predator 

cats are bird predators

The most common peril for backyard birds are house cats and feral (wild house cats) cats.

They kill more wild birds than any other predator.

This presents a difficult dilemma for “kitty” owners and their neighbours who want to feed the birds in their backyards.

If you have a cat there are ways that you can control the risk of your cat becoming a backyard bird predator.

  • Keeping your cat indoors permanently will of course completely solve the problem, as far as your animal being the perpetrator is concerned.
  • You can put a bell around your cat's neck.
  • Keep your pet on a leash while it is outdoors.
  • De-clawing your cat may also reduce the danger somewhat, but I have heard it’s not much of a deterrent for some cats. Cats are backyard bird predators by nature and will do what comes naturally to them and that is to hunt. And... is it the best thing for your pet?
  • Construct a cat enclosure for your cat. An outdoor space just for your cat. It keeps your pet healthy, safe and saves the wild bird population from destruction. You can see a good selection of Cat Enclosures here. Read more about cat enclosures, their benefits and get plans, here at Catio Spaces.

cat enclosure

This is what one person who bought this cat enclosure had to say:

“My owner was sick of me howling at the door to go outside so she purchased this catio. She installed a cat door to the backyard and now I can go outside whenever I please. I love it!”

Then There’s The Neighbourhood Cats

house cats as predators

Then there are the other cats which live in your neighbourhood. They are harder to control.

You can speak to your neighbourhood cat owners about keeping their pets indoors.

If they see your example of using a cat enclosure and keeping your pet indoors, that will be a big encouragement for your neighbours to do the same.

How to Protect Birds in Your Backyard?

squirrels bother nestlings

Hang your bird houses or feeders in locations where they cannot be easily reached.

  1. You can mount them on an isolated pole in your yard.
  1. Use baffles placed over the top or under the house or feeder to prevent backyard bird predators from reaching your bird house or feeder. (Just remember raccoons are larger and larger baffles are needed to keep them at bay.)
  1. Use seed catchers under your feeders to prevent most of the seed from falling to the ground where birds who like to feed on the ground will dine. This of course makes them more vulnerable to attack. More on this to come next.

Baffle Squirrels with Pole Mount or Hanging Above

Large selection of different types of baffles here.

What Particular Problems do Bird Feeders Pose?

house cats and wild birds

Bird feeders pose a special problem where cats are concerned because the birds often toss seed, deliberately or inadvertently from feeders.

This provides food for ground feeding birds, which is good, but it also serves well for felines, drawing wild birds where they are easy prey, which we want to avoid.

A wide tray to catch the seed mounted under the feeder will work well if it is high enough that the cats cannot jump to it.

Chicken wire can be used to make a fence around the bird feeding area, high enough that cats cannot jump over. How high can some house cats jump? 6 feet!

My Recommendations for Catching Seed
& Shells to Prevent a Mess on the  Ground

High Quality Seed Makes Less Mess
Because More Seed is Eaten & Not Tossed on the Ground,
You Can Also Use Shelled Seed

What Problems are Specific to Bird Houses?

racoons are songbird predators
  1. Predator guards are available which can be mounted over the hole of a bird house. Some make a tunnel entrance to the bird house. This makes it difficult for the arms and heads of predators, such as cats,  raccoons and squirrels, to reach in to grab eggs or young birds. 
  1. And some predator guards are flat pieces of metal which prevent predators from chewing the entrance hole bigger.
  1. Removing perches from bird house entrances will help prevent predatory birds such as Starlings, Black Birds and Blue Jays, from getting into the house.They are not clinging birds and will find it much harder to get close enough to the entrance to reach inside if there isn’t a perch.
  1. Most birds which use bird houses are clinging birds and will not be hindered in anyway from using the bird house if it does not have a perch.

Let Predator Guards be Your Bird Guardians

How to Protect Songbirds from Birds of Prey?

birds of prey at bird feeders

Hawks and other birds of prey pose another problem which may be harder to control. Some birds of prey feed primarily on songbirds. 

The following results were reported for percentage of songbirds making up the whole diet of these birds of prey:

  • Sharpe-shinned Hawks 96%
  • Cooper's Hawk 55%
  • Marsh Hawk 41%

How can we help in the unfair advantage that our feeders present?

Placing bird feeders and bird houses in a location that is not visible from above and close to cover for escape will help.

Another answer to this backyard bird predator problem may be to stop using bird houses and more importantly bird feeders for a couple of weeks.

By taking your feeders in for a while the hunter may move on to other hunting grounds.

You really have no choice though, with a bird house once a family takes up residence. You may just have to accept the course of nature.

Even in a situation where there are no human feeding stations involved, songbirds will feed regularly at natural sources which become favourite hunting grounds for predatory birds.

What is the Danger from Snakes?

Snakes pose the biggest problem at bird houses. They like to eat eggs and young birds too.

Baffles will provide a solution to this problem by using one that has a surface snakes find hard to navigate which is too smooth and slippery for them to navigate.

Most people who attract backyard birds will encounter a problem with backyard bird predators at one time or another.

Pole Guard & Entrance Guard

A Set-up like this with a pole guard and entrance guard will keep just about anything out!

A reader wrote a note to me from our “contact us” page relating
their experience with a predator.

I only recently started bird watching when my husband and I had to move for his job.

I knew no one in the area, so I set up a bird feeder. The next week I asked for another, now I have four, and can't wait to put out my hummingbird feeder!

I love your web site, it is very informative, and interesting.

We live about one mile from a river, so we get a lot of activity. I even had a hawk snare a finch off the feeder!!

It both saddened and excited me.

This is my story...

We have had a Red-tailed Hawk around our home for a few years. We often see and hear it flying over head.

One day, as I was sitting on our deck, I heard “thump” and looked up to see a flurry of activity. Three or four Mourning Doves were flying in every direction.

The Red-tailed Hawk was in their midst. It appeared to be “frozen” in mid air. Perhaps its braking position was because it had suddenly noticed me.

Then I saw a Mourning Dove lying on the ground under the dining room window. It had turned in its moment of terror in the wrong direction and struck the dining room window, causing the “thump” I had heard.

As the reader above mentioned, witnessing an event like this is filled with mixed emotions.

house cats are songbird enemies

BUT, no matter what steps you take to prevent casualties from backyard bird predators, there is no sure solution. Animals will follow their natural instincts, even the "kitty" living in your home, or next door.

How To Fix Other Backyard Bird Feeding Problems

  • Window Bird Strikes Most people who feed wild birds will unfortunately experience birds flying into their windows from time to time. It is a very distressing occurrence and one that can be avoided. Let’s find out how.

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