Saving Your Bluebirds With Snake Guards

Just What is a Snake Guard?

If you have a bluebird house or any kind of bird nesting box, you might not have given much thought to snake guards. Nor had we until that fateful morning… But let’s back up. Just what is a snake guard?

Snakes, like all critters, need to eat. And one of their favorite foods is bird eggs, baby birds or even baby bats. Yikes.

In order to protect your bird nests or bat houses, you can install snake guards. Properly installed, it will help prevent snakes, and other animals, from gobbling up your precious babies. Notice I say, it will “help” as nothing will completely protect against predators as we have learned.

But maybe this blog should be called “Protecting Your Bluebirds AND Snakes With Snake Guards” as we don’t want to harm the snakes, one of our most misunderstood critters. And to learn more about snakes (and maybe fall in love), check out our “Snakes” in our Underdog section.

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A snake climbing a tree next to our bat house with no snake guard

 

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Baby bluebirds before fledging

The Fateful Morning…

Waking up to an awful commotion outside, we know something is terribly wrong.  The mamma & papa bluebird are squawking and swooping around the bluebird box where their 5 babies are days away from fledging. Racing outside, we look in the box and there is our resident snake curled up inside with 5 bulges in his body. We are absolutely heartbroken.

But how could we be mad at the snake? It has to eat so we chase it out of the box. Then, as a reminder, we see the snake every day for a week with those tiny little bulges.

Mother Nature is not always kind. However, we are determined not to let it happen again on our watch. And so far, so good.

 

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Two metal cones protect our bluebird house.

Protecting Your Babies

Currently, we have 2 bluebird nestboxes, a couple of wren houses and a bat house. We did a lot of research on the best ways to protect our babies. Here are some of the lessons we learned.

First try not to place your bird box or bat house on a tree. This is especially true if you live in the south where snakes are more active. Pretty sound advice (which of course, we didn’t follow).

Ideally, put your bluebird nest box on a pole. Since snakes are great climbers (which we learned the hard way), you will need snake guards. We found a cone baffle system worked best. We have 2 cones on top of each other and Dale greases the pole with vaseline. Now I am not 100% sure the vaseline keeps the snake from climbing, but it makes Dale feel better so…

You could also use a stovepipe baffle but for us, it hasn’t been very effective. Both our squirrels and snakes seem to be able to get around the pipe.

 

How About Slinkys?

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Remember slinkys as kids? Try them as snake guards.

Slinkys might also work. Wait, did you say a slinky like the kind we played with as kids? Yes, a slinky. Attach it to the bottom of your birdhouse and let it dangle. We haven’t tried it yet but snakes supposedly won’t climb the pole. Let us know if it works. We have ordered a couple just to see.

To protect bat houses, check out Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation article Selecting a Quality Bat House.

Please No Bird Netting

Please, please do not use bird netting anywhere around your nestbox to deter snakes. Yes, it might stop them.  But usually, the snake gets caught and dies a terrible death and then you have to cut the snake out of the netting.

Now you have lost your resident snake who keeps far more rodents away than it eats in baby birds. A lose/lose situation.

Also, we found a small cone around your pole doesn’t work. If you have a big snake, it can climb past the cone.

Some folks use a wire mesh in front of the bluebird hole. Our birds won’t nest in the box with the wiring and we aren’t comfortable adding it once an egg is laid (as recommended) so we don’t use it.

We would love to hear from you about what has worked and what has not. Share your ideas at loti@weilerwoods.com or leave a comment in the section below. We are always looking for better ways to protect our bluebirds!

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Wire mesh on a birdhouse to prevent predators from entering.

Resources

And to read more about snake guards, check out these articles:

Comparing (pros and cons) Various Predator Style Guards

Dealing with Predators by Nest Watch

 

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