Q: “I have black birds that build a nest in the same spot on my garage every spring. I’ve tried using fake owls, moving their nest before they lay eggs, even making noise. I don’t want to resort to anything that will harm them but it destroys the corner and is very messy. How do I keep these birds from doing this every year?”
Early spring is the time for a variety of birds in our Delmarva region to find prime real estate for their nests. As you indicate, some birds migrate and return to the same location used for their hatching location. It’s incredible how accurately they find the exact spot their parents used after months of travel.
You indicated that you’ve tried some commonly-used methods for discouraging nesting, such as with a predator (owl) statue. There may be some other ideas that can help. For example, a Conservation site from Polk County, Iowa suggests installing some type of plastic sheeting or netting as a barrier to prevent barn swallows from re-nesting. As they state:
“Swallows have a strong attachment to their nest site. If you remove the nest, they will try to rebuild in the same location. If you move the nest even a short distance, the bird may abandon the nest and anything in it. In general, from the time the bird begins sitting on its eggs until the young are ready to leave the nest, four weeks will pass. If you can afford to wait, that’s the best choice for the birds. Plus it is illegal to disturb the nests of birds protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.”
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology gives the idea of posting multiple deterrents, not just one. For example, use a statue of an owl and another predator, and play recordings of birds in distress. This combination may deter even the most stubborn starling. Another example of this process was used by Vanderbilt University for its stadium, which was having problems with starlings.
Recordings of birds can be found online, too, such as through Cornell University. Cornell’s Ornithology site offers hawk sounds and other vocalizations from predators, too, and can help you identify the type of bird that is choosing your home for its nesting site.
It may also be helpful to find bird songs from predators and those in distress online through YouTube and other commonly-used sources, and set up a way to play this periodically to chase away any notion that your garage or location is a good nesting area.
Another site, from the Migratory Bird Center, gives information about the differences of birds within each species and uses wrens as an example. Sometimes it’s helpful to understand more about how birds behave in order to safely and humanely solve such a problem.
Our Delaware Libraries have books about identifying and understanding birds in our region, including “The Everything Bird Book; from identification to bird care, everything you need to know about our feathered friends” by Tershia D’Elgin.
Another helpful book is “The Field Guide to Backyard Birds of the Northeast,” published by Cool Springs Press (2008).
It’s a little too late to move the nest now, but with these guides you’ll be all set for next year. Depending upon the warmth of the late winter, we can see swallows migrating back to our region in early March. Two excellent online guides can help us learn more about these migrations and in this way, help prepare for next year’s guests:
1. Audubon Society of North American has extensive information about birds, their behaviors and migrations.
2. A basic but informative Teacher’s Resource from Carolyn Sedgwick of Cornell University gives highlights about bird migration and resources for further exploring.
Thank you again for your excellent question and good luck with your bird situation; let us know if we can help further. We appreciate your service, and your support of our libraries and please feel free to contact us again anytime you have questions or need information, in person and online. Happy birding!