If you're lucky and you've created a
balanced backyard habitat, a complex, interdependent web of living
creatures is sharing your property. You've noticed that you can't
always pick and choose which insects, birds and other animals move
to your yard. And you've found out that living close to wildlife
means adapting your behavior to theirs, and outsmarting or
excluding them where they create a nuisance you can't live
What about hawks? Most hawks eat
mice, grasshoppers, rabbits and birds, including nonnative, nuisance house sparrows.
There's simply no possibility that they will deplete the songbirds
at your feeder, but if you manage your yard to concentrate
songbirds at a feeding station, predators will eventually notice
and occasionally take an unwary or slow bird. Follow the
recommendations on our Feeding Stations page for feeder
placement. Be certain the birds have quick access to shrub or brush
Norway or black rats? The best and
only really effective way to control rats is to stop feeding them.
Don't leave pet food out overnight or stock your platform or ground
feeders with more than a day's worth of seed. Use rat- proof
containers, such as garbage cans with tightly fitting lids, to
store dry foodstuff. Situate brush piles well away from the bases
of buildings. Encourage rat snakes! Remember that native rodents,
particularly cotton rats, may be attracted to your yard. Unlike the
unwanted Norway and black rats, our native species seldom occur
inside buildings, don't pose a health threat, and can be fun to
observe. They also are important foods to predators such as owls,
hawks, and foxes. If you see rodents away from buildings or trash
piles, they are likely beneficial, native species.
Squirrels at your feeders? Invest
in one of the new baffles built for bird feeders. They really work.
If you have pole feeders, try greasing the pole with vegetable
shortening. It's harmless, biodegradable and hilarious!
Nest box predators? Keep bird nest
boxes on poles; clear tall vegetation from base of pole. Sheet
metal wrapped around wooden poles will prevent predators from
climbing into boxes.
Birds in your berry patch? Try a
few strategies. Invest in plastic bird netting. It's the only way
to assure yourself a full crop. Plant native attractants, such as
wild cherry, elderberry, pokeweed and mulberries, which will dull
the birds' appetite for cultivated fruits. Place one or two nest
boxes for Carolina wrens near your fruit crops. These insect-eating
wrens are very territorial and will harass other birds that venture
near their homes.
Rabbits, armadillos, raccoons in your
garden? The only permanent solution is fencing. Explore
electric, poultry wire or woven wire fences. If you elect to
install electric fencing, do not use red insulators. They attract
and electrocute hummingbirds. Fences are movable, cost relatively
little and save a great deal of frustration. Consider chain link
fencing if you're willing to absorb a high initial cost, or if the
neighborhood dog population is especially troublesome.
Remember, from the standpoint of wildlife,
domestic cats and dogs are a major source of mortality. Do
you really want to attract birds and other animals to a feeding
station if you cannot keep your pets confined? If you have cats in
your yard, consider not using mixed grain feeds or ground feeding
stations. Sunflower or thistle seeds in tube feeders will
discourage the especially vulnerable ground feeders, such as doves