squirrel in feederIf 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 with.


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 pile cover.

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.

rabbitRabbits, 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 and quail.

FWC Facts:
Burrowing owls live as single breeding pairs or in loose colonies consisting of two or more families. Unlike most owls, burrowing owls are active during both day and night.

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