Bird nest boxes are a great way to attract a variety of bird species to your backyard. However, these boxes can also attract predators, including snakes. This comprehensive guide will provide you with detailed information and actionable tips on how to keep snakes out of bird nest boxes.
To keep snakes out of bird nest boxes, mount the box on a smooth, small-diameter pole to make it difficult for snakes to climb. Install snake guards or a cone baffle system on the pole, and keep the area around the nest box clean. Avoid placing the nest box near trees or overhangs, and consider using safe, non-invasive snake repellents around the box. If snakes persist, natural deterrents like hot red cayenne pepper or a clean sand barrier can be used.
Understanding the Predators
Before we delve into the solutions, it’s essential to understand the common types of snakes that invade bird nest boxes. Rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta), Corn snakes (Elaphe guttata), and Fox snakes (Elaphe vulpinus) account for 70% of snake raids on bird nests. These species thrive in various environments, including vegetation, barns, and abandoned buildings. Snakes typically raid bird nests at night, and predation is more frequent in nests with baby birds being fed than in nests with eggs being incubated.
Implications of Snake Invasions
Snake invasions in bird nest boxes can lead to nest predation, forced re-laying and brooding, ecosystem impact, and predator control. Nest predation by snakes is the leading cause of nest failure for most bird species in terrestrial ecosystems. By preying on eggs, snakes force birds to re-lay and brood successive clutches, which may influence bird life history patterns. Many bird species provide important ecosystem services, and population fluctuations due to reduced recruitment from nest predation could potentially alter the functional integrity of various ecosystems.
Effective Methods to Deter Snakes
- Mount the nest box on a pole: Placing the nest box on a pole makes it more difficult for snakes to access it.
- Use a smooth, small-diameter pole: A half-inch metal conduit (used for plumbing) is narrow and has a smooth surface, preventing snakes from climbing to reach the nest box.
- Install snake guards: Snake guards can make it difficult for snakes to enter birdhouses. A cone baffle system is one effective option.
- Use an old Slinky: Wrapping a Slinky around the pole can prevent snakes from climbing up to the birdhouse.
- Keep the area around the nest box clean: Trim the lawn and remove debris piles to reduce hiding spots for snakes.
- Avoid placing the nest box near trees or overhangs: This prevents snakes from crawling onto the nest box from nearby branches.
- Use hardware cloth on the ground near the pole: A wire mesh coated with plastic can deter snakes from approaching the pole.
Snake Repellents for Bird Nest Boxes
If snakes are a persistent problem in your area, consider using safe and non-invasive snake repellents around bird nest boxes. The Bird Be Safe device and cone baffle systems are effective options. They are easy to install, blend well with the environment, and are made from heavy-duty UV-resistant material that lasts for years with minimal maintenance.
What To Do If You Find a Snake in a Bird Nest Box
If you find a snake in a bird nest box, carefully remove it if it is safe to do so. Relocate the nest box to a safer location, preferably mounted on a pole away from trees or structures that snakes can climb. Install predator guards, such as baffles or cone-type guards, on the pole to prevent snakes and other predators from accessing the nest box.
Natural Ways to Deter Snakes
There are several natural ways to deter snakes from bird nest boxes. For instance, rubbing hot red cayenne pepper on the nest box pole or creating a clean sand barrier around the pole can deter snakes. Attracting predatory birds like hawks and owls, which prey on snakes, can also help control their population.
Remember, snake predation on birds is a natural process, and no method is 100% effective in deterring snakes. However, by using the tips and methods outlined in this guide, you can significantly reduce the chances of snakes invading your bird nest boxes, ensuring a safe and secure environment for your feathered friends.
Frequently Asked Questions
What other predators should I be aware of when placing a bird nest box?
Besides snakes, there are a variety of potential predators to bird nest boxes, including squirrels, raccoons, and cats. Birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and falcons are also potential threats.
Are there any bird species that are particularly vulnerable to snake predation?
All bird species are potentially vulnerable to snake predation, especially those that nest near the ground or in low shrubs. However, some species such as the Eastern Bluebird and Purple Martin are particularly susceptible due to their nesting habits.
How can I tell if a snake has invaded my bird nest box?
Signs of a snake invasion can include scattered or broken eggshells around the nest box, missing or injured chicks, or the presence of a snake inside or near the box.
Are there certain times of the year when snake invasions are more likely?
Snake invasions are more likely during the warmer months, typically from late spring to early fall, as this is when snakes are most active and when many bird species are nesting.
Is it safe to handle a snake if I find one in a bird nest box?
It’s important to remember that some snakes can be venomous and pose a risk to humans. If you are unsure about the type of snake or how to handle it safely, it’s best to call a professional.