Image © 2006 Charles H. Warren
Songbirds are some of the most popular species of wildlife in DuPage County, providing enjoyment for avid birders and casual observers alike. Fortunately, there are several easy steps that homeowners can take to help DuPage County’s resident robins, cardinals, finches and other feathered friends.
Birds Flying Into Windows
Birds commonly fly into windows at homes or businesses. This can happen for several reasons. A migratory bird may see a reflection of the landscape and mistakenly fly into the window. Or a bird may see its own reflection in a window and mistakenly initiate a territorial battle. This behavior usually indicates that there is a nest nearby. Unfortunately, millions of birds die each migration season by flying into human-made objects.
- Place brightly colored strips of material or curling ribbons on the outside of the window.
- Bend Post-its in an “L” shape, and place them on the outside of the window.
- Place black paper bird silhouettes on the inside or outside of the window.
- Mark the window with soap to remove reflections.
- Place a bright light in the window to remove the reflection.
- Cover the entire outside of the window with newspaper. This technique is usually only recommended when a nesting bird continually flies into the window. Leave the newspaper up for five to seven days, if possible.
- If a bird has sustained obvious injuries such as bleeding, a wing or leg fracture, or a head rotation of 180 degrees, bring it to Willowbrook Wildlife Center.
- If the bird appears stunned or unable to fly, give it some time to recuperate. Place the bird out of direct sun or under a bush. Wait two hours, and then check on the bird; if at that time it still is unable to fly, bring it to Willowbrook Wildlife Center.
When to Use Them
Young birds can become dependent on feeders if that is the only food source they learn to use. Therefore, feeding should stop from April through October when the weather is warmer and natural sources of food are plentiful.
Planting flowers, shrubs and trees that produce seeds or fruits can provide a natural food source with fewer risks for the birds.
Diseases are easily spread at feeders. One example is the rapid spread of an infectious eye disease among house finches. The ailment is often fatal without treatment. Other potentially fatal diseases that can spread at feeders include salmonella, a bacteria; trichomoniasis, a parasite that especially affects doves; aspergillosis, a fungus that attack birds’ lungs and can grow in damp food and shells on the ground under feeders; and avian pox, wart-like growths caused by a virus common in mourning doves.
People who feed birds should remember their responsibility to keep feeders clean by scrubbing them and using bleach as a disinfectant.
If You Find a Destroyed Nest
If a storm has destroyed a nest, a make-shift nest can be made out of a hanging planter or plastic dish. Lay white tissue or paper towel inside the container, and put the eggs or the young back in the make-shift nest. Then, place the new nest as close as possible to the old one, and watch for the parent birds to return. Birds know where their nest is visually. If moved more than a couple of feet, they will not be able to locate the new nest. If the parents do not return within 24 hours, call Willowbrook Wildlife Center.
If You Find a Baby Bird
If you find a featherless, downy or incompletely feathered young bird, find its home and place the bird back in the nest. Birds have a poor sense of smell; the parents will not reject the bird because you touched it. If you find a completely feathered young bird on the ground that looks healthy but is unable to fly, leave it alone. These birds, called fledglings, are out of the nest and live on the ground for about two weeks.
The parents still feed and care for fledglings while they learn to fly. If you watch, you may see the parents make their presence known by squawks or swoop attacks when you approach the young. It is always in the best interest of the bird to be raised by its parents. Leave the fledgling alone unless a dog or cat is attacking it. If you have a fledgling in your yard and you are concerned about pets, turn on a sprinkler to deter pets from bothering the fledgling.
To deter birds from perching in a specific area, such as a ledge, window air conditioner, balcony railing, or roof, try one of the following suggestions.
Stretch a Slinky or bird coil over the space. When either is stretched, it creates an unstable surface, and the birds will not attempt to perch.
For a more permanent deterrent, glue or fasten porcupine wire to the space. Porcupine wire can be purchased at local home centers.
If birds are building a nest in unwanted places, try the following:
Play a radio near the area to scare them.
Hang brightly colored streamers, strips of material, windsocks or curling ribbon to keep the birds from continuing to build a nest.
Place hardware cloth around an outside dryer vent to prevent birds from nesting or roosting inside.
Cats and Songbirds
All cats — even declawed and well-fed cats — are instinctively proficient hunters. Free-roaming cats — domestic as well as feral — kill millions of wild animals each year nationwide, including songbirds. If you care about wildlife, always keep cats indoors.
Public Health Concerns
The Illinois Department of Public Health has shown that a small number of birds in DuPage County carry West Nile virus, which is transmissible to humans through mosquitoes. Humans are not at risk simply due to the presence of birds in the area, but the presence of mosquitoes is a risk factor.
What Not To Do
- All native birds, including songbirds, are protected by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal for any person to possess birds, dead or alive, nesting material, eggs, feathers or bones of a bird without the proper permits from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the state of Illinois. It is also illegal to harm or kill a protected bird species, and it is illegal to remove or destroy nesting material from a nest once an egg is laid. The law does not protect three nonnative birds: the pigeon (rock dove), the English house sparrow and the European starling.
- Never move young from the nest.
- Do not use poisons. They are inhumane and may be illegal. They can also result in secondary poisoning of raptors, wild scavengers and neighborhood pets.
- It is illegal to keep wild animals, even for a very short time. They have special nutritional, housing and handling needs that you are unlikely to be able to provide. Inexperienced individuals who attempt to raise or treat them inevitably produce unhealthy, tame animals that cannot survive in their natural habitats.
Willowbrook Wildlife Center
If you come across a wild animal and are concerned, leave it alone. Call Willowbrook Wildlife Center for advice at (630) 942-6200. The center is located at 525 S. Park Blvd. in Glen Ellyn and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except select holidays. Recorded messages provide general information for callers when the center is closed.