Many wild bird injuries are caused by, or related to, human activities. The vast majority of the injuries are accidental and often difficult, if not impossible, to prevent. But there are precautions you can take to minimize the chance of a wild bird becoming injured because of your activities. We believe the following suggestions will be helpful to you, and the birds.
We hope the ideas and suggestions presented here will help you in preventing avoidable injuries to our wild birds.
Look for Nests Before Cutting Trees and Shrubs
Many of the orphaned baby birds we receive are brought by people who have inadvertently disturbed a nest when pruning or removing trees and shrubs. Nests are usually well camouflaged and often go undetected. Carefully check for nests before you trim trees, hedges and bushes.
Whenever possible, avoid removing trees and shrubs in spring and summer, the prime nesting seasons. Wait until fall when the nests are no longer in use. If you hire a tree service or landscaper, ask that they take these same precautions.
Some birds form a hollow or use a pre-existing hollow in a tree for a home. Such cavity nesters, like screech owls and woodpeckers, could be inhabiting what appears to be an unoccupied tree. Many of these birds will use a hollow for a roost throughout the year, so regardless of the season, check the cavities of a tree for occupants before cutting it down.
Look for Nests Around Your Home
Every spring we receive calls from people concerned about birds nesting in peculiar places around their homes, such as in hanging plants or exhaust vents. Some birds will nest anywhere there is an opportunity, and a sheltered nook of your house may seem to them like a perfect spot to raise their family. If birds have taken up residence in a safe location around your home, make sure they stay free from disturbance, avoid activity near their nest and keep your cat indoors. If the birds pose a minor inconvenience, be patient, they will soon leave of their own accord. Baby birds grow up quickly; most leave the nest within three weeks after hatching, some even sooner. So if at all possible, tolerate their brief stay.Discourage birds from building nests in dangerous or intolerable locations around your home. If you see nest building activity in a poor location, try to deter the birds by loud noise, clapping, shouting and movement, such as waving a towel. If there are already eggs or babies in a nest which is in an inappropriate place, call us for advice.
You can avoid some of these situations by making certain favored (but dangerous) sites inaccessible to the birds in the first place. For example, block any opening in or around your window air-conditioner, and check that your kitchen fan and clothes dryer vent doors are closing properly.
In recent years Mallard ducks and Canada Geese have become more numerous in our area resulting in fewer natural nest sites to go around. The ducks and geese sometimes choose very poor locations for nesting such as near backyard swimming pools, under residential shrubbery, office building courtyards and even rooftops. Ducklings and goslings hatching in such locations face insurmountable obstacles and seldom survive. If you see ducks or geese starting to nest in a dangerous location, discourage them immediately. By chasing them off early in the process you’ll avoid disaster later. They will seek another (and with luck) safer nest site.
Disarm Windows and Glass Doors
A significant number of the birds we rehabilitate have suffered impact injuries from flying into windows or glass doors. Birds accidently fly into glass because they can mistake reflections for actuality or just don’t perceive the glass as a solid object. The problem is more common with expansive windows and sliding glass doors. Depending on numerous variables (light, weather, surrounding landscape, etc.) a large glass surface of your home can become an invisible wall to birds. If a bird flying into a window or door of your home is a recurring incident, disarm the glass by disrupting its see-through and mirror-like properties. Closing your blinds or drapes may work, but from our experience most times the problem must be solved from the outside.
-You can place streamers or a decorative wind sock in front of the problem window. The movement will help ward off birds.
-A few lines of light colored string hung loosely across the window can also be effective.
-A hawk silhouette, a danger sign to most birds, can be taped onto the glass. Hawk silhouettes are available commercially or can be purchased from The Raptor Trust.
-Stained-glass ornaments attached by suction cups on the outside surface can be used to break up the reflective and transparent properties of the glass.
-You can try keeping an interior light on behind the window. Reflections only appear if it is darker behind the glass.
During nesting season some birds, robins and cardinals particularly, will repeatedly attack their own reflected image, thinking it a rival in their territory. This problem will resolve itself with time. As the nesting season progresses the birds will stop this behavior, but you can try any of the above suggestions to keep the bird away from the windows.
If you feed birds, place the feeder away from windows; there will be less opportunity for an accident to occur. Keep a pair of binoculars handy for close-up looks.
Lower Outdoor Nets
Birds, especially nocturnal owls, can be injured or killed as a result of becoming entangled in soccer and volleyball nets. Lower or furl nets after each use and take them down during the off season.
Screen the Top of Your Chimney
Cavity nesting birds sometimes mistake chimneys as suitable nest or roost sites and can accidentally find their way into your home. To avoid unwanted visitors and prevent their injury, have a chimney screen installed. If you’re a “do-it-yourselfer,” commercial chimney screens are available at most hardware stores or can be made from 1/2″ X 1/2″ galvanized welded wire. The wire, securely fastened to the top of the chimney, will not interfere with its function and will keep birds, as well as small mammals, from entering. Attic ventilation openings, vent pipes and window fans can also be screened to prevent birds from entering.
Pick Up Litter
Discarded plastic six-pack harnesses, used to hold cans of soda and beer, are a great hazard to birds and other wildlife. The harnesses are especially dangerous in water where they are practically invisible. Birds fishing or feeding in the water can easily entangle their bills and necks in the strong plastic rings. This usually leads to strangulation or starvation. Pick up any plastic six-pack holder you find and cut or pull apart the rings and recycle it. If possible, avoid buying products wrapped in these holders; most beverages are available with other packaging.
Fishing line (monofilament), kite string, and like material is also a danger to wildlife. Birds can become entangled in the line and be injured or killed. Pick up spent fishing line and string, cut it into small pieces and dispose of it properly. Monofilament fishing line is a recyclable product.
Use Alternatives to Chemical Pest Control and Lawn Care
Many commonly used insect sprays, weed killers and rodent poisons are highly toxic to birds. Herbicides and pesticides that are sprayed in your yard can contaminate their food and water supply, nest material, dirt used for dust baths and the air they breathe. Many of the birds brought to us that exhibit central nervous system disorders have been found on or adjacent to recently chemically treated yards. Don’t be fooled by chemical products touted as being “organic”. Many environmentally destructive chemicals are organic. Be wary of products merchandised with the meaningless prefix “eco” or “environ”. Read a products warning label for a truer sense of its impact. There are alternatives to chemical pest control and lawn care. Reference guides to safer yard care and gardening can be found at your library or book store.
Poisons used indoors can easily find their way outdoors and into the food chains. Hawks, owls, and other predators can become the unintended victims of secondary poisoning when a poisoned rodent is ingested. Live-traps are available to catch small rodents, but if necessary, the old fashioned mouse and rat traps are still the quickest and most humane way to dispatch unwelcome rodents.
Remember that just because a product may be chemically safe for the environment doesn’t mean it is safe for all wildlife. A gluey paste commonly used to control tree infesting insects is also marketed by several manufacturers as a “non-toxic” way to deter birds from perching on roofs and ledges and even to keep squirrel off bird feeder. The substance is in fact very harmful to birds. Birds traveling along the treated ledges or trees become tangled in the gluey substance. The material fouls their feet, beaks and feathers, incapacitates and eventually kills them.
Keep Cats Indoors
Domestic cats make wonderful indoor pets, but when allowed to roam outdoors, the consequences are disastrous. The American Bird Conservancy estimates that 2.4 billion birds are killed by domestic cats in the United States alone. Domestic cats are the single largest human-caused mortality factor for wild birds.
Wildlife rehabilitators are overwhelmed each year with birds that have been caught by domestic cats. Further, these birds rarely survive the injuries they sustain as a result of being caught by cats. For more info about domestic cats and the threat they pose to wildlife, visit The American Bird Conservancy at www.ABCBirds.org.
Birds do not make good party favors and class projects
Various stores sell ducklings at Easter time; some schools have “raised” young chicks, quail and other species from eggs for science projects; and domestic white doves are sometimes released at celebrations such as weddings and graduations. None of these species is able to survive in the wild and they become problems when released.
Unless you have a farm or other place where these birds can live when they are fully grown, these activities should be discouraged.