[Tweeters] Rodents at Bird-Feeders

Steve Krival stevekrival at live.com
Wed Apr 19 13:53:23 PDT 2017

It's great to see people are taking a broad, ecological view of the effect of bird-feeders on other populations of animals - especially rodents and people - other than just targeted bird populations. While it is certainly true that the use of feeders has increased the populations of some bird species (Subirdia, John Marzluff), they also increase populations of rodents, which lead to the spread of disease and the increased use of rodenticides, which in turn seriously negatively impact predator, omnivore, and scavenger bird species (Subirdia, Marzluff). Another impact of rodents is that they can chew holes in houses, enter crawl spaces and attics and do tens of thousands of dollars in damage to a home, as they did mine when adjacent neighbors erected three feeders which they kept full all year, while doing nothing to prevent the spread of seeds onto the ground and attracting rats. At the recommendation of King Co. Public Health I have adopted the following method: I never add more seed to a feeder or feeding platform than can be consumed in a day. At my house that turns out to be just 1-2 handfuls of seed a day. Not very much. You will need to experiment to determine what the daily seed load is at your house. The amount various with season and other factors, so you need to be observant. Whatever device(s) you use to catch seed before it hits the ground the rodent-accessible left-over and fallen seed needs to be removed daily so that rodents can't feed from it at night. I cover the ground under the feeder with a tarp, as well as use a catchment device around the feeder pole. I spread a tarp over the ground because not only is any seed left at the end of the day clearly visible, but so are rodent feces. If I see rodent feces, I simply stop feeding birds for a number of days and then resume at a lesser quantity of seed. Both birds and rodents are ubiquitous in Seattle. The objective is not elimination of all the rodents outside your house, but to reduce the likelihood of an infestation by making your yard and house less attractive to them. BTW, I like Alan's idea of using an old screen window to catch seeds, and may incorporate that into my feeder plans. Currently, I use a plastic trash can lid. I cut a hole in the center so it can slide over the feeder pole, and punch many small holes for draining rain water, and use bungee cords to fix the lid in place by running them from the outer rim of the lid to holes in the pole to hold the lid in place. You may need to experiment with the distance of the lid from the feeder on the pole to catch the maximum seed fallout. The Seattle Audubon Nature Shop sells a number of different feeders that prevent access by squirrels and rats to the seeds inside the feeder. If this all sounds like a lot of work, bear in mind that it is considerably less than that of the time spent caring for a pet dog, and it could save you and your neighbors tens of thousands of dollars in damages and prevent someone from being a public health statistic.

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