DETERRING THOSE PREDATORS and PESTS

I use the Kingston stovepipe wobbly baffle, designed by Ron Kingston, Charlottesville, VA.   This is basically a baffle to ward off ground predators; i.e., snakes, raccoons, cats, field rats, and mice.   It is considered one of the best guards out there for most ground predators.  It’s not 100% fullproof, but it’s worked well for many bluebirders, including me, for most boxes.  Black Rat Snakes are my #1 ground predators for my boxes.  The other ground predator possible are ants, which do not seem to be a problem on my trail.  This baffles does NOT hold back ants. I should mention this video of a snake  is not one of my trail boxes but a box in my County–the monitor shared it with me–arrived at the time the snake was attempting to find those bluebird babies.  Snake foiled and bluebirds fledged!  Phew!    

Here is the Ron Kingston design–an inexpensive-to-make and highly-effective 8-inch x 24 long galvanized stovepipe baffle to hand under your nestbox (see pictures below).  NOTE Mr. Kingston’s predator guard has been used since 1988–it’s been tested over and over and works the BEST of all guards out there!   http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/kingstonbaffle.pdf

To view some predator guard plans, click to this URL to the Virginia Bluebird Society’s page on guards:   http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/BB_Guards_12-11-2012.pdf

 http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/kingstonbaffle.pdf

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Ron Kingston stovepipe design guard (for snakes and other ground critters!). See link to get the design to make one inexpensively.

Stovepipe is 8" by 2 feet long and the Noel guard is made of a heavy guage hardware cloth, difficult to bend.

Stovepipe is 8″ by 2 feet long and the Noel guard is made of a heavy guage hardware cloth, difficult to bend.

I also use the Noel hardware cloth wire guards for over the entry hole.   Being a member and County Coordinator for the Virginia Bluebird Society, we are asked to use these guards since Virginia has many avian and ground predators, particularly the raccoon.  It also helps any ground predators that gets on top of a box, like the raccoon, to not be able to reach inside the entry hole and remove eggs or chicks or hurt an incubating female!  (Again, many thanks for Carl’s help in making these.)

Nesting bluebirds liked this box.

Nesting bluebirds liked this box.

 OTHER PREDATORS:

The House Sparrow (see HOSP Control page) and the House Wren (HOWR) are predators to bluebirds and their young.   House Wrens can attack bluebird eggs and nestlings.   There is a video of the House Wren attacking bluebird nestlings on my Problems page.  The House Sparrow is a killer of our native birds.   Jays and other avian predators, even woodpeckers, can bother our cavity nesters.

 INTERESTING PHOTO SHOOT SERIES IN A NOEL GUARD:

BELOW is a series of five photographs taken on June 12, 2009, of a bluebird couple both entering and exiting the box and guard at the same time.  As you’ll see in the photos below, she arrives with grub, feeds her chicks, stays inside the guard, he arrives with grub, he feeds her some, they pass each other, he enters the box while she watches, she leaves the box and guard, she flys to the box roof and waits, he exits the box with a fecal sac.   After that, they both left to look for more food.  Interesting activity indeed!  This all happened 5 minutes after I did a nest switchout from a blowfly infested nest to a clean nest saved from a previous brood from another box earlier in the season.  This photo series is a good indication to me as a monitor that the parents return quickly after I did the nest switchout and have no issue with using a nestbox with an installed Noel guard.   (Please note that the foliage behind the box is farther back than what appears in the photos, a slight optical illusion with the focus of the lens on the camera that day.  I try to keep my boxes as far away from thickets as possible.  These bluebirds really like this box and location — this box did well in the 2008 season.)

Female On Box with Grub

He Arrives and Feeds Her

"Well, Hello, Darling!" Two-Way Porch At Work!

She's Watching Him Enter the Box

He Feeds Chicks and Brings Out Fecal Sacs

 

RETURN TO THIS SITE’s HOME PAGE:  https://woolwinehousebluebirdtrail.com/

Fathers Day 2008

29 comments on “DETERRING THOSE PREDATORS and PESTS

  1. I am grateful for this. I have a predator that I need to eradicate. I think you should produce this, Noel guard, as a for sale item that can help fund your trail

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  2. Just wanted to mention that I found this site in my effort to find out how to protect my brother-in-law’s BB house from WOODPECKERS. Don’t trust that they are just curious. He saw one pulling the babies out and throwing them to the ground, and when they were placed back in the nest and the woodpecker shooed off, it came back the next day to do it again. It was one of the mid-size woodpeckers, not the downeys. I am going to try the wire guard, but if anyone has a good idea, please let me know. Thanks!

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  3. I saw a woodpecker looking in my bluebird house. what kind of problems can arise from this? I am afraid the woodpecker will deter the bluebirds from coming back to their house. There is one egg in the nest.

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    • I think that woodpecker was just investigating out of curiosity. I’ve not had woodpecker issues. However, most of my boxes have the Noel predator guard over the entry hole. Only the Downy Woodpecker might roost in it during the winter. Many may peck at the entry hole. I do not see a worry for bluebird eggs inside. I know bluebirds with eggs or young will be highly bonded to taking care of theirs inside that nesting box. I wouldn’t be too worried. Sorry for the delay in responding. Busy time here for me so I’m not in my website dashboard as often. By now, your bluebirds may have fledged? Can you please ID the woodpecker you saw? This would help because we have many species of woodpeckers and sizes of those birds.

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  4. We have our bluebird house on a 4 x 4 pole. We have been happily watching them feed their babies. Today we were alerted by their excited cries to a black snake making his way around the pole. After carrying it away, it wasn’t long before it was back. Unfortunately, it was the snake or the babies & we chose the babies. We may not be there the next time. Until they fly off, what can we do to protect them? We will definitely follow the directions next time for a pole and baffle. Thank you!

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    • Good catch on that snake! For people who still insist on installing a bird feeder or a nestbox on a 4×4 wood post, I suggest this baffle from Duncraft — it is wider than the 18″ standard squirrel size baffle and this should help with any ground predator attempting to get past the baffle becuase it’s very flat. It’s a bit pricey and you may have to pay for shipping if it’s under $75.00 worth of merchandise from Duncraft’s catalog. If you want something faster to install NOW, which is what I recommend, go to your local hardware store and get a heavy gauge (like 1-1/2″) size hardward cloth sheet and have it cut into a piece so you can take your tin snippers and cut it into a square about the size of 20″ or so, and keep the edges rough (pronged) out. Cut a slit in it (wear gloves so you don’t injure your hands) and than create a slip on piece of protection. If you keep the edges pronged, the snake cannot slither past those prongs because they (probably the rat snake, those expert climbers) can’t injure it’s scales trying to get around it. Make sure you put it underneath the box and not low to the ground because these guys can maneuver themselves to stand on their ends of their tails and leverage themselves against a baffle too low to the ground. This is a fast fix, not a permanment fix, so you can add this quickly under the box without removing the box from the wood post. If you buy this flat metal baffle designed to be added to wood posts like this one I’m showing you, you can paint it to match your grounds or birdhouse and it will look pretty for permanent protections. I still recommend the conduit installations because they are easy to install using a post driver and easy to move the box to another location. Many wood posts are anchored in by cement, so they are harder to move. I like having the option of moving boxes, if I need to. Good luck! Thanks for writing. I would love to hear back from you on what you decided to do for protecting your bluebird nestbox. Wood posts are pretty but not very practical for safe housing for nesting boxes UNLESS you add an efficient baffle underneath it. Here is the baffle from Duncraft I would recommend for you for permanent protection if you decided to keep your wood post setup: http://www.duncraft.com/index/page/product/product_id/4259/category_chain/1059,84/product_name/4+x+4+Post+Disk+Baffle

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      • Thank you for replying so quickly. We ended up catching another black snake within an hour of the first snake, but since then, we haven’t seen another. We purchased the hardware cloth, but can’t figure out how to attach it to the 4 x 4. Hopefully we’ll get this done before it’s too late!

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  5. What would be best to deter black snakes at my bluebird nests. I currently have a cylinder raccoon baffle, thinking that is what ate the eggs. However I have a video camera hooked up, and to my horror, I saw a black snake curled up after eating the 5 just hatched bluebirds in another house. Someone told me a cone baffle is better and to try the noel guard or even barbed wire at the base of the post. Help me, I don’t want a repeat of this last year. Bruce

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    • Hi, Bruce. Thanks for writing. When you say “cylinder”, can you be more specific on the design? I wish I could see a picture of your nestbox so I better understand and help you troubleshoot how to fix it–it would help me to know how you installed the box (what is holding it up? — a pole, a wood post?) I use 6, 7, and 8′ x 24-inch stovepipe wobbling baffles that hang underneath the nestbox. Some are Ron Kingston’s design that wobbles using hardware cloth in the center at the top inside of the stovepipe (the most effective) and some of mine are the three different widths using a duct cap on a bolt and wobbles on that. Frankly, I’m finding the duct cap on an 8″ width stovepipe (duct) is as effective percentage-wise on my trail as the Kingston’s design with hardware cloth. Just so you know, the purpose of the hardware cloth is the snake smells up the pole and will follow it up to the box and get stopped at the top and attempt to coil and get through and drop back to the ground. The smell of the birds above is stronger by going down the pole through the hardware cloth. . Just so you know, I prefer 8″ width stovepipe baffles (they HAVE to wobble to be more effective!). I’ve had rat snakes get past the 6″ width baffles. Very large and veteran-experienced rat snakes are known to get past even the most effective snake guards, but not always. It’s a small percentage. A nesting box in snake country with no guard at all has a much more chance of losing young inside a nestbox, even if it’s on a pole. The rat snake is an expert climber–it uses leverage by coiling its body up and around and then the scales are used to grip like a rubber shoe. I’ve seen pictures of snakes getting up vinyl siding this way. Some snakes are more expert climbers and more interested in birds nests than others. A cone (or conical) baffle I use underneath a covered bird feeding tray to keep the squirrels off–that works, but some snakes can get past conical baffles 18″ wide. You could try a conical baffle more at the 22 to 24″ width, but it’s not a guarantee it can hold back snakes. The stovepipe guard (Ron Kingston design which is found on my website) is a much better deterrence for snakes (and other ground critters, including cats, mice, opossum, and raccoons). I don’t believe in the use of barbed wire for two reasons (1) As a naturalist, I am not trying to harm or kill native snakes (2) it can cause harm to other wildlife. The Noel Guard does not hold back avian predators or snakes. However, you could try leaving the prongs out at an angle and away from bird feathers on the Noel Guard, if you want to try that (but I can’t guarantee it will work or not). I’ve had some tell me they don’t get snakes getting past “pronged” Noel Guards. I tend to cringe somewhat on the sharp prongs just like using barbed wire. It just sounds harmful to wildlife in general. My personal opinion is the jury is still out on that. If this helps you at all, I’ve not had a loss to snakes this year to fully-loaded nesting boxes on my trail of 34 boxes when set up on a one-inch electrical conduit and using 7″ or 8″ x 24″ stovepipe wobbling baffles. I don’t know how your nesting box is installed so I can’t make a personal recommendation. If you want to send me a photo of your setup, you can do so at WoolwineHouse@gmail.com. I’m happy to see what I can to help. Not sure who told you the cone baffles is better–not necessarily true–depends on the width of the cone and the size of the snake! Send me pictures, and I’ll help you privately on Email, if OK with you and perhaps get a better idea and send you some designs to consider for snake deterrence (you should think ALL predators to bluebird nesting boxes, not just snakes).

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  6. I would like to know how to install this. Cannot see front view.
    Please let me know how to do this! Bluebirds are just starting nests
    JC in Texas

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    • Hi, Julie. Thanks for asking! If you mean full installation of a nestbox on a pole (electrical conduit) with the stovepipe round duct snake/raccoon/ground critter guard and also the Noel hardware cloth guard over that entry hole, go the Virginia Bluebird Society’s page for the plans and instructions: http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/about-bluebirds/nest-boxes-guards-signs/ This page has all the plans and the box mounting method. Just read the page and open the links for everything. The PDFs will open and you can print them out. Write back here if you need more info. I also have a page on my blog here that shows all the supplies to install one box with some how-to’s. It was posted in 2012: https://woolwinehousebluebirdtrail.com/2012/03/21/spring-2012-typical-nestbox-setup-and-supplies-for-my-bluebird-trail/

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    • Hello. We just came home to our 4 bluebird eggs tossed out and holes poked in them. I am so upset…must be sparrow or house wren. Should we try to move the nest and/or install a noel guard? The BB house is currently on a tree. Help!

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      • Hello! Sorry for the delay as I just saw your message about the broken eggs. First, yes, I would recommend you not install a nesting box on a tree–that is like a highway to a predator’s lunch. However, the broken eggs on the ground sound like House Wren to me. I have the same problem going on at a few of my nesting boxes myself. It’s a bit heartbreaking yes–this is nature working with the birds in competition for the nestbox. I am also thinking your box on the tree is in wren habitat. You might consider installing it on a pole (conduit) and bring it out from the trees and brushy habitat, if possible. The Noel Guard is a raccoon, cat, and large avian predator deterrence to get inside the 1.5″ entry hole. It’s highly effective; however, it cannot keep out smaller birds like House Sparrows and House Wrens. One thing you might like to try is have a “wren guard” created and have it hang over the entry hole after you have you next set of bluebird eggs. Here is a good place to see this and the how-to make it: http://www.nestboxbuilder.com/nestbox-predator-controls.html#holeguards Do you keep in mind that the House Wren is a native bird. By federal laws, we cannot evict them if they are truly nesting (laying eggs). They routinely break other bird species eggs because they want that cavity. It’s a bit frustrating, I admit. Keep me posted on things are going!

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        • Thank you so very much for taking the time to help us! This was my first pair of BBs….I have been waiting since I was a little girl to see 1 in person. We will make all of the changes you suggested and report back! I haven’t seen the parents since this happened but I will try to stay positive and hope for their return. I have a wren house too…hopefully he/she will prefer that real estate instead! Thank you again for your support!

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            • After days without any sign of mr & mrs BB, guess who showed up today?! I was sitting outside when I heard them arrive! We are putting up the “new house” tomorrow morning however, they are already moving back into the old BB house on the tree! Should we move forward with our plan or let them try again at the old site? I don’t want to confuse them or encourage them to leave!

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              • When you say they are moving in, have they dropped nesting materials in? If not, I would take the old one off the tree pronto and install the NEW box on a pole with a ground predator guard, like a stovepipe baffle or a conical baffle and out of brushy areas but in the area that you see them. I never recommend tree-trunk mounting–when I see nesting boxes on tree trunks, I cringe a little–it’s luring the bluebirds to use it but putting them at risk to all types of predator access: ANTS, mice, field rats, opossum, RACCOONS, SNAKES (not sure where you live), SQUIRRELS, flying squirrels, and House Wrens (if that tree is in brush habitat). House Wrens aren’t so much a predator but they do harass and CAN cause harm to eggs and nestlings of other species in that nesting box. You might consider doing some reading here about bluebirds. NABS is a great organization. Start here at this PDF (hope you can open it!) http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/PDF/FAQ/NABS%20factsheet%20-%20FAQs%2024May12%20DRAFT.pdf Here is the page of all the FACT SHEETS: http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/Fact/bluebirdfacts.htm

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                • Will do! We live in rural CT and have everything you mentioned. Thank you for the reading materials. I’ll let you know how it goes…

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    • Hi, Marianne. It has not deterred the House Wren on my trail. I only have a House Sparrow problem in one area, an in-town location, but it’s my TEST box (see my tabbled page for info on that test box); that box does not have the Noel guard on it because it’s a two-hole box. After the test box is completed after the 2012 nesting season, I would like to install another box somewhere in that area to see if it does indeed deter the House Sparrow. If the House Wren has enough assertiveness to enter a box with one, I’m thinking the House Sparrow might also. I certainly can ask some of my fellow County Coordinators in Virginia to see what they say about it and can update this post with another reply in the near future. Thanks for asking this question–it’s an excellent one!

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    • Would the modified noel guard (made from a plastic milk carton) deter House Wrens?

      In 2010, I had a BC Chickadee nest in a box with a hole that may be borderline too small for a House Sparrow. As soon as the House Wren came back, it proceeded to remove the Chickadee nest. I hope that the young Chickadees had already fledged, but I am not sure.

      I would prefer that the Chickadees could have a successful brood.

      Thanks again!

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      • I’ve not heard of the milk carton approach. However, if you need really good info on how to deter the House Wren , I suggest the best bluebirds website out there, compliments of Bet Zimmerman at: http://www.sialis.org/wrens.htm(Remember, it’s a protected native species; so by federal law, we monitors are not allowed to remove nests and eggs and young of the HOWR–we ARE ALLOWED, however, to remove “dummy nests” — this is when the HOWR fills up a nestbox with just sticks to the the ceiling so no other bird species can use that nestbox–a territorial thing the HOWR does. It takes some learning to distinguish the differences between a dummy nest and a REAL HOWR nest. Believe me, I know, as I’ve made the mistake of taking a HOWR nest out that wasn’t a dummy nest! Thankfully, I was able to fix my own problem without harming the birds–I learned quite a bit that day! Learning about all native cavity-nesting birds is what’s good about monitoring. I do know that the HOWR can cause havoc on other birds’ nests, including throwing out the babies of another species. I have a video posted on my site about it….under PROBLEMS.

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      • I know it will not deter the House Wren, as I’ve seen them use one of my boxes and bring up a brood with the Noel hardware cloth guard over the entry hole with no problems. Whether it deters House Sparrows remains to be seen. I’ve heard from other bluebirders they think it has deterred them. It needs to be tested. I can certainly write to some of our Virginia Bluebird Society monitors/coordinators, and ask them about it and try to get back here to update this post in the near future with another reply. If anyone reading this knows, feel feel to post a reply here. Thanks!

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  7. Your site looks absolutely awesome! I love it and you should be proud! I see you already have over 2k hits. WOW! Keep up the good “birding”…can’t wait until our trip to the Bluebird Convention. I’m really getting excited…

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    • I’m glad you have enjoyed what you’ve seen. The intent is not only to share the joy of bluebirding but also to educate what bluebirding is and why we are so passive about it. The main goal is to help the birds be successful. Bluebirds have a lot going for them and a lot going against them. Human intervention has helped them in the past decade to come back in greater numbers and survive through nestboxes, predator guards, and installing those boxes in habitat that helps them be successful in breeding and fledging bluebirds.

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