pring is a busy time of change
for the wild bird population.
As the days lengthen and the
temperature warms, many birds
define and defend their territory,
molt, construct nests, mate, and
prepare for their coming young.
Of course, the increased activity
these spring instincts create can make for some
wonderful bird-watching opportunities. But it also
means we have to be much more conscientious about
the health and safety of our wild neighbors as we
clean, repair, and rearrange our homes and yards.
Even in the mildest climates, winter can take its toll on your house and surrounding yard.
Tree branches are often knocked down or broken, house siding can be loosened or pulled
away, and a film of dirt and dust usually coats your windows and air vents. While inconvenient
to any home owner, winter wreckage often creates a safe haven for wild birds and animals.
Therefore, care needs to be taken to ensure yearly repairs and maintenance do not damage
the precious sanctuaries that many wild birds rely on as winter transforms into spring.
WINDOWS - Clean windows let
you better see and enjoy the outside world.
But dirt-free windows also pose a collision
hazard to wild birds as they flit around your
yard in search of food and nesting materials.
Prevent potentially deadly accidents
with your spot-free windows by using visual
clues to alert birds of a window’s location.
Hang plants, sun catchers, or other visible
objects in front of your windows inside your
home. Or, use electrostatic window alert
decals that reflect UV light to help birds steer clear of that otherwise invisible glass,
all without obstructing your view of your yard and its inhabitants.
SIDING AND WALLS - Though
dangling house or garage siding is an eyesore,
it may also offer beneficial wind shelter to a wild
bird that has built a nest behind it. Similarly,
small wall openings may create the perfect
burrow or nest location for birds, squirrels, or
other animals. Before you fill an opening or
repair damaged siding, inspect the area for any
signs of animal residence. The simplest way to
do this is to loosely plug holes with insulation,
cloth, or paper. Then wait a few days. If the filling
material is undisturbed, reseal the hole with a
more permanent patch material. If the temporary
filling has been tampered with or removed, a
more thorough inspection of the area is needed.
If a pair of wild birds have nested inside your
exterior walls, it is best to hold off on repairs
for a few weeks until the young birds have
TREES - Whether knocked to the ground
or attached to a tree, wild birds use tree limbs to
perch, nest, and rest. Before you remove a pile
of fallen branches, observe the animal activity
that surrounds it. Unless there is a stockpile of
seeds or nuts beneath the branches, most birds
and animals will only forage in a single location
for a short time. However, if a single bird continually
leaves and returns to the same location
within a branch pile, chances are she has either
begun to build a nest or already hatched some
young. Care should also be taken when trimming
branches around your home. Be especially
watchful for bird nests. If you damage a bird
nest, the best thing to do is reconstruct it as best
as possible and then leave the area alone.
How you clean and maintain the inside of your home could have a major impact on the
wild birds and animals that live outside of it. Open chimneys, dryer vents, and attics make
inviting nesting areas, since each usually offers warmth, security, and protection from the
elements. Each year, many wild birds and animals are injured and orphaned by well-intentioned
home owners. As you clean and repair your home’s interior keep an eye out for
birds that have nested or entered your home from an outside opening.
|How to handle
animal guestsIf you discover unwelcome house
guests, it is best to tolerate their
occupancy until they naturally
leave the premise. The natural birth
and weaning cycle of most animals is
relatively short and you may be doing
nature well to harbor a nest of young
for a few weeks. If you cannot wait,
there are humane tactics that may
encourage a mother and her young to
move out early.
Keep in mind, however, that many
wild birds are protected by the
federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Therefore, it is illegal to move or
eradicate protected birds you may find
in your home. As such, curbing their
nesting instincts early (by capping
chimneys before spring, for example)
is, in many instances, the only way to
prevent a few wild animal squatters
in and around your home during
spring. But if you absolutely need to
encourage wild birds and their young
to leave the area, attempt one or both
of the following tips:
The Sound of Music – Most animals relish quiet. Silent
surroundings let young mothers be
more aware of approaching predators.
You may be able to use this to your
advantage. By simply turning up the
volume on a radio placed inside your
fireplace or attic, the increased sound
level may encourage a mother and
her young to seek shelter with a little
The Light Effect – Like
humans, animals need their rest,
and many of them find it under a
blanket of darkness. By turning lights
on in your home or attic, you may
humanely drive nesting animals away.
CHIMNEYS - Because of its
warmth and high elevation, it makes
sense that wild birds would choose
to build a nest in your chimney.
Unfortunately, if you do find a nest
of young inside your chimney, it is
best to wait until the babies have left
before you clean it. If you haven't
already done so, it is also beneficial
to cap your chimney with an
inexpensive cover, available at
most hardware and home repair
stores. Never attempt to smoke
any animals out of your chimney.
Young birds may not be able to
climb out of the structure on their
own and the results could quickly
STOVE VENTS - Like chimneys, vents around
your home can make a wonderful,
warm and secure nesting spot
for a pair of birds. Again, the
best route to take if a nest is
found is to wait until the young
have left. Once you are sure
these openings are clear of any
wildlife, cover any open vents with
screening to help prevent similar
occurrences in the future.
ATTICS - Since they are
seldom used for anything other
than storage, the relative quiet,
warmth, and protection that attics
offer wild animals makes them
ideal nesting grounds. However,
because of their typically large
spaces, tracking animals or birds
and their young down in your attic
may turn into quite an endeavor. If
you cannot wait until attic guests
have left, you may want to enlist
some professional assistance to
help limit damage, eliminate harm
to the animals, and prevent other
animals from taking up residence
in your home.
Spring is an active time for
animals and humans alike.
Spring cleaning is really about
opening our homes to the light,
smells, sights, and sounds of
the outdoor world after the
deluge of winter blues. And
though it may be your backyard
you are cleaning, for at least a
few weeks, the pile of branches,
your chimney, or your attic is a young wild animal’s entire world.