FAQ - Other Birds
We all want to live and coexist with our local birds, but sometimes issues arise that don’t exactly fall into the rescue scenarios covered elsewhere on this site. If you don’t see your question here, we encourage you to contact the Center.
How do I keep birds from crashing into windows?
Birds can be stunned, break a wing, or even be killed after hitting a window. Here are some tips for keeping wild birds from crashing into windows. Not all of these ideas work for all situations; it depends on the house, the bird, and the surroundings. Experiment— if one thing doesn’t work, try another.
Remember, it is NOT what is inside your house that is causing the problem. The birds are seeing the reflection of the sky, clouds, trees, bird feeders and other things outside. They think they can fly to those things, not realizing there is only a solid window there. Changing what is inside the window, such as keeping your blinds or curtains drawn, will not reduce the reflection on the outside. So, what can you do?
Relocate any bird feeders and houses further from the house so the birds will not see their reflections as often.
Keep your windows dirty! Birds think they can fly to whatever is reflected in the window. Dirt reduces reflections.
Putting a screen on the window reduces reflections somewhat and provides some cushion during an impact.
Thumbtack shade cloth over the window. Shade cloth can be bought at hardware stores and garden centers. It’s a plastic mesh that is easy for you to see through and will keep the windows from reflecting.
Thumbtack string diagonally across the windows, from corner to corner. Do this for all corners. Then tie strips of cloth or surveyor’s tape (colored plastic strips) to the string so that the ends flutter in the wind. You are creating a scarecrow effect on the window.
Cut circles out of a foil pie pan. Poke a hole in each circle and tie a string through the hole. Then tie these foil circles to the diagonal strings as in the step above.
In the North San Francisco Bay Area’s “Wine Country,” one can purchase reflective mylar “vineyard tape” at a farm supply store. Cut out appropriate length strips and staple one end to the outer edge of the eaves above the window. The movement and flashing of the tape alerts the birds.
How can I keep migrating ducks from taking up residence in my pool?
Usually, brightly colored objects floating freely in the water will discourage waterfowl from landing on it. Things like beach balls or kids’ toys can be used effectively. You can also cover the pool until they have moved on.
If ducklings are trapped in a pool or fountain, you can construct a temporary ramp and move away so they can get out of the water easily.
I have birds nesting above my front door and they are making a mess. What can I do?
Wait until the babies have fledged (left the nest). Then remove the nest and devise some sort of barrier (i.e., rolled chicken wire) to prevent future nesting. DO NOT disturb the nest! It is illegal to disturb an active nest. For that reason, we also strongly discourage trimming of trees and bushes in the spring and summer unless you are quite certain there are no active nests present.
A hawk (or other bird) has flown into our warehouse and won't leave. What do I do now?
First, determine if the bird is a diurnal hawk (active during the day) or a nocturnal owl (active at night).
If it is a diurnal bird:
If possible, go up on the roof and completely cover any skylights with an opaque cloth to block the light. Turn off any lights, keep people away from the area and open the largest door close to where the bird is. The bird may take the hint and fly right out toward the light source.
If the bird flies into the warehouse toward dusk it may be perfectly content to simply roost in your building overnight. In this case, turn off the lights, close the doors and go home. Come back early the next morning, preferably before dawn, keep all lights off, open the largest door closest to the bird and keep all people from the area. Position yourself out of sight but in a place where you can see the bird leave. This is most successful if you arrive early enough to have the door open as the sky lightens.
With a hummingbird trapped in a building, we have had success gathering a big bunch of flowers and placing them in a vase just outside the exit door.
If it is an owl:
Most owls spend the daylight hours secluded in a tree or other structure and do not fly until dark. At dusk, turn off all lights inside the building, open the largest door closest to the bird, remove all people from the area and be out of sight but in a position where you can see the bird leave. Most owls will not leave until it is quite dark, so your timing is critical. The bird may also be disoriented and not fly out immediately even when it is dark, so be prepared to give it some time.
Can you contract diseases or parasites from rescuing a bird?
The chances of you catching anything directly from a wild bird are very remote. Birds have higher body temperatures than humans and as a result, humans do not act as hosts to bird parasites which require warmer temperatures for survival. If mites or feather lice from a bird do get on you, simply wash your hands with soap and the parasites will wash away.
If you are afraid of touching the bird, get a friend or neighbor to pick it up or pick it up using a towel or gloves. If a bird has visible parasites on it, it is a sign that it is in really bad shape and in need of immediate help even more than its injury would indicate.
What are the laws regarding wild birds?
No one may have in his/her possession any native wild species of bird without special State and Federal permits.
No one may tamper with or destroy any occupied nest of a native wild species. Such a nest may be destroyed only when not in use (after breeding season ends and the birds have left).
No one may kill any native species except a properly licensed hunter during an authorized hunting season. So-called “nuisance birds” may be disposed of only after securing a depredation permit from the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner’s office.
No one may legally possess feathers, body parts or the carcass of a native species without the appropriate State and Federal permits.
I am seeing sick birds at my feeders and baths. What should I do?
If you find a sick or dead bird in your yard, on your feeders, or on your birdbaths and are able to catch it, please contact your local wildlife rescue center ASAP. Remove and thoroughly clean all feeders and baths immediately, following the tips found here.
I've heard about Salmonellosis, what is that?
Salmonellosis is a fatal bacterial infection that rapidly spreads through populations of wild birds via feces-contaminated food and water. Most often, Salmonellosis Outbreaks originate where birds flock to feeders or baths. Infected individuals will appear lethargic, puffed/fluff-up, with eyes partially closed; on occasion, eyes may also appear swollen, red, or irritated. MORE INFO
Year-Round, Songbird-Safe Feeding and Bath Guidelines
Based on: News from our Nest, Veronica Bowers, Native Songbird Care & Conservation, December 2020
First, please consider the use of native vegetation to support, feed, and sustain local wildlife. Native plants provide shelter, seeds, berries, nectar, and insects – all of which are vital resources for wild birds. They also promote more natural, safe, and healthy foraging habits, reducing the risk of disease spread through your yard.
If you choose to also provide supplemental feeders and/or birdbaths, it is critically important you clean them at least once a week, all year round.
Bird Feeder Cleaning Instructions:
All feeders should be cleaned and disinfected at least once per week, year-round.
Tip: Keep duplicates of each type of feeder so you can place a fresh one out while the other is being cleaned.
Safely discard any remaining food into your compost bin or trash
This should include raking up spilled seed or debris below your feeders. This helps improve overall cleanliness; reduces risk of children, domestic animals, or other wildlife contacting potentially contaminated seeds; and reduce the presence of rodents foraging on dropped seed.
Clean: Scrub feeders inside and out with warm, soapy water, then thoroughly rinse with water.
Disinfect: Soak feeders in a warm 9:1 bleach solution for 10-15 minutes.
Alternatively, use bleach solution in a spray bottle to coat feeders inside and out. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.
To make the bleach solution, mix 9 parts water with 1 part bleach (i.e., 9 cups of water to 1 cup of bleach, or approximately 1 gallon water to 1.75 cups bleach, etc.).
Rinse thoroughly with water, then allow feeders to fully air dry before re-filling and re-hanging.
Bird Bath Cleaning Instructions:
All baths should be emptied and refilled with fresh water on a daily basis, year-round.
All baths should also be cleaned and disinfected once per week following the same procedures as cleaning bird feeders.
Keep Yourself Safe:
Wear gloves to protect your skin from direct contact with bleach or potential pathogens.
Wear a mask to prevent accidental ingestion or inhalation of splashback or aerosolized particles.
Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after contact with sick or dead birds and/or dirty feeders and baths.
Owl Box Cleaning
Owls can have more than one clutch of babies each year making it difficult to know when the coast is clear and it's safe to do some much-needed housecleaning.
As a rule of thumb, the period of time between Halloween and Thanksgiving is generally the best time to take on this project.
Keeping your owl boxes clean is important to the health and safety of the owl family who inhabits it. Urine and fecal matter build up and pellets of undigestible fur and bones accumulate. The photos above shows foot lesions that developed from growing up in a dirty owl box. Recovery took several months of care as the foot pads were severely damaged. We were able to get this bird and several of its nest-mates healthy and eventually released back into the wild, but it was a glaring reminder of just how important owl box cleaning can be!
Pellet material serves as natural bedding; however, left to accumulate, the debris can build up to the point there is little room left for the babies. Too much debris can also increase temperatures inside the box and prevent good ventilation, which is especially dangerous during hot summer months. Further, if the layers of debris result in the babies positioned too close to the entrance hole, they can actually fall out of the box before they are ready to fledge.
The good news is that you can forgo spring cleaning when it comes to your owl boxes, as long as you make owl box cleaning an annual fall project. Mark your calendars with a reminder to clean your owl box every fall between Halloween and Thanksgiving—and always take a peek inside the box to make sure it's vacant before you start.
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