Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? If you have ever watched Snow White, you are familiar with these words. The wicked queen in the story used the mirror to find out who competed with her for the most beautiful in the kingdom.
In nature, there are creatures that compete with each other for territories, nesting sites and food sources. We like having these creatures close by our homes. In fact, we encourage them to be close to our homes by feeding them.
I am talking about birds. Every year, I get calls on how do I stop this bird from attacking my windows, mirrors on my car, nesting on my porch, attacking me or my pets or attacking my house. Well, let's look at the reasons that birds attack windows, mirrors, or other shiny objects, and how we can stop them.
Just like the wicked queen in Snow White who was looking for rivals for her beauty, these birds that attack windows, mirrors and shiny objects are seeing rivals for their territory. When these birds attack these objects, they become annoying and can damage property.
According to I.B. Parnell, who is a senior wildlife biologist with Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division, birds see their reflection in shiny objects and attack to drive off intruders. This activity occurs more when birds are nesting than other times of the year. Parnell says there are some species of birds that are more prone to attack shiny objects than others, including cardinals, mockingbirds, bluebirds, robins, woodpeckers and flycatchers.
Also, there are problems with birds building nests where you don't want them. There is a group of birds in the flycatcher group who build nests out of mud. They like to build nests on the ledges under your porch. These nests are very unsightly, and the birds make a big mess. Another bird that is a big problem when nesting is the mockingbird. Mockingbirds will attack anything that comes into their territory. This includes cats, dogs, other birds and humans. It becomes very annoying when you walk out of your house and you have a bird swooping around your head.
If we have these problems with birds, how do we get the birds to stop attacking windows or mirrors or making nests in the area? According to Parnell, there are several ways that you can deter birds from attacking windows and other shiny objects. The first is to cover the object. If the bird is attacking a mirror on a car, you can cover the mirror with a towel. If the bird is attacking a window, you can cover the outside of the window with a piece of cardboard. This should cut down on the reflection, and if the bird doesn't see itself, it should not attack the window.
Another tactic according to Parnell is to scare the birds away from the area. You can hang pie pans, old compact discs and mylar balloons in the area where the birds are attacking. These will scare the birds away. Another object to use is mylar streamers, which blow in the wind and help scare the birds away. Any of these objects need to be changed from time to time or moved, because the birds will become accustomed to them. Also available are cutouts of birds or decoys that can scare birds away or draw them to another area. These have to be moved from time to time or they stop being effective.
One of the ways that we can get birds to stop attacking windows and mirrors is to get them to move their nesting site. Parnell recommends that as the birds are building their nest, you can tear down the nest. After three or four tries, most birds will move their nest to another area. Parnell cautions that our songbirds are federally protected species. This means that you are not to destroy nests with eggs, young birds or mature birds. If you had birds build a nest in an area last year, they will probably build the nest this year.
Another way to deter nest building is to block or close off the area where they are building their nest. I had flycatchers that liked to build nests on my front porch. I placed a piece of board at an angle that covered the ledge. It worked. The birds moved to another nesting site.
So, if mirror, mirror on the wall is happening with birds in your yard, you can follow the suggestions above to reduce the chance of the bird seeing his rival.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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