How to protect your feeders from hungry hawks

Cooper's Hawk

Courtesy of H. Gilbert Miller

If you’ve ever owned a bird feeder, you’ve probably seen this sad and alarming scene. Near one of your bird feeders is a bunch of feathers strewn all over the place as if there was a major kerfuffle. Even though you might hope that it’s simply the result of birds molting their feathers, you know that one of your precious backyard birds was plucked from the sky by a bigger bird of prey.

While you likely put out feeders to provide food for birds, you probably didn’t mean that way. Sure it’s a part of nature, but it’s not something you necessarily want to happen on your watch. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to discourage birds of prey from using your bird feeder as a place for easy pickings.

Gimme shelter

Just like The Rolling Stones, all the birds want when they’re being targeted by hawks is some shelter. There are a few ways you accomplish this. You can put your feeders near shrubbery and bushes to give birds a quick place to hide in the event of an attack. You can put a cover over the top of the feeder. Here’s what Jim Wright at NorthJersey.com recommends as another option:

Similarly, I have placed an old owl nesting box near the base of the feeders to provide an air-raid shelter when hawks are hunting.

Be mindful of where you place the feeder

I’ve talked about this at length in other posts, but it’s essential to keep in mind where you place your backyard feeder. It’s almost an art because of how many things you have to take into consideration. For example, a big danger to birds when there’s a hawk attack is windows. In the panic to disperse, birds may accidentally fly into windows, so don’t put your feeders too close to them. Also, make sure there are no great vantage points for hawks to look down at the feeder and formulate a plan of attack.

Put wire cages around the feeder

A wire cage around the feeder gives birds protection against hawks and keeps invasive species like blackbirds or squirrels from getting your seed or suet. Caged feeders usually only allow smaller birds to access the food and keep away unwanted hawks.

Remove food sources for hawks

If your backyard is filled with delicious mice and voles, hawks will be naturally drawn to your yard and will ultimately target your backyard birds. In certain areas, it’s hard to get rid of a hawk’s favorite food, but you should definitely try if you’re having a major problem.

Temporarily take down the feeders

As a last resort, if the hawk attacks are persisting, consider taking down your feeders for a while. This will disperse the birds and cause any hawks to move on from your backyard. It’s recommended you leave them down for two weeks to a month.

Don’t be cruel!

If you’re reading this blog, I don’t have to tell you not to shoot or trap hawks that might be targeting your feeders. Not only is it illegal, but it’s also plain wrong. Another thing you should avoid is releasing cats to discourage hawks because they will have unintended consequences on your backyard’s ecosystem and potentially kill more birds than the hawks!

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2 Comments

  1. Posted March 1, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, this is good information. I have been feeding the back yard birds for over 20 years.

  2. emma
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    if the hawk is small maybe a cat would deter it, but dont count on it….in a field two perigrine falcons came down in attack mode on my two small dogs, (about 15 pounds each) some hawks are huge look at videos of them killing adult canada goose.

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