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Time for a backyard bird safety check

July 20, 2020

Many of us enjoy gazing out our windows and admiring nature, especially if we’ve taken extra steps to attract wildlife to our green spaces. But did you know there could be hidden dangers in your garden oasis which put birds at risk? Protect your feathered visitors by taking a look at our quick safety checklist.

If you feed birds

Where are your feeders?

Poorly placed feeders can make birds more vulnerable to window collisions and cat attacks.

Place feeders either less than three feet or more than 30 feet from a window. Feeders closer to windows actually lead to fewer fatal collisions. Birds taking flight next to a window can’t build up enough momentum to strike the glass very hard.

Nearby trees and bushes allow birds to rest between meals, but they can also hide a stalking cat. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology suggests a distance of about 10 feet between feeders and natural cover as a good compromise.

Spread feeders out to discourage birds from crowding at a single feeding station.

Rufous hummingbird sitting at feeder
Photo credit: Marie Revoy

How clean are your feeders?

Dirty feeders can spread disease.

B.C.’s Wildlife Health Program recommends soaking dirty plastic or metal feeders in a bucket (not the sink) in a solution of 10 per cent white vinegar or 10 per cent bleach for about 10 minutes. Scrub the feeder, and then rinse it thoroughly. Allow it to dry completely before re-hanging. Repeat this every few weeks.

Avoid wooden feeders because they can’t be disinfected properly.

Resist the urge to pack feeders full of food. It’s better to keep them less full and let the food move through the feeder more quickly.

Remember that sugar solutions for hummingbirds spoil more quickly in hot weather. Birdseed can also go mouldy, especially if moisture gets in the feeder.

Rake the area underneath the feeder regularly to remove droppings and seed hulls.

Wild stellar jay bird hanging off a bird feeder eating seeds
Photo credit: Kelly Pape

Don’t forget your bird baths!

Unattended baths are breeding grounds for disease.

Change the water every few days to get rid of debris — more often when lots of birds are visiting it. Using only a brush and running water, scrub the bath a few times a month to remove algae and bacteria.

Photo credit: Steve Banks

If you have cats

Keep your cat indoors

Sadly, in Canada, hundreds of millions of birds are killed by cats each year.

From food puzzles to window shelves, there are plenty of things you can do to entertain your cat indoors, and give her opportunities to express her natural hunting instincts in the safety of your home.

Cats who are used to going outside can be transitioned into indoor kitties.

Tabby cat sitting on perch looking out window curiously

Supervise your cat outdoors

With lots to see and smell, the outdoors can be a very stimulating place for cats — but also very dangerous. Outdoor cats are at risk of being attacked by other cats and coyotes, or hit by cars.

Instead, take your cat outside for a leash walk, or let her roam your yard under your watchful eye. You can also build her a catio, which allows cats to experience the outdoors inside a screened enclosure.

Cat being walked outdoors on a leash while wearing a collar and id

If you come across an injured bird

Call a professional!

Don’t attempt to give food or water, or otherwise care for the bird yourself. Sick and injured birds require specialized care, and have the best chance of recovery in the hands of trained wildlife experts. Contact the BC SPCA wildlife support line at 1-855-622-7722 for help.

Wild american goldfinch on plant stem
Photo credit: Colin Franks

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