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Any way to keep hawks from nesting in my yard?

March 12, 2019

Was wondering if there was any way of discouraging hawks (red shoulder) from nesting in our yard. It’s too late for this season, but would like to do something for next year if at all possible.

We’re on almost 7 acers of mixed harwoods/pines with a creek and open land as well as woods. We just finished our build 6 months ago and have settled in and happily hung our bird feeders. It’s been awesome with the variety of birds that visit along with all the singing and bird melodies etc ........until a few week ago when things got a lot quieter with less songbird activity. Then, while scouting the treetops I happened to notice a large nest high in a tree about 60 feet from our feeders. The hawks are actively sitting so will be there to stay, but I‘m hoping to discourage them from nesting here next year. Any suggestions??

Comments (51)

  • illsstep

    Well, if you don't want the hawks nesting there, maybe you shouldn't feed them... ;)

  • mad_gallica

    Rethink where you have the feeders. To my eye, they look very exposed - better positioned for you to see them, than for small birds to feel safe. My feeder is placed a few feet above a clump of bamboo, and a few feet below a large branch of an ash. Everything does not automatically disappear when the red tails show up because they have enough cover to feel safe.

    Small birds are not their primary food source.

  • girlnamedgalez8a

    People can be so rude.

    I had a pair of Red Shoulder hawks nesting in my tree in the front yard for 2 years. I also have a lot of song birds that come to my feeders & we really enjoyed watching the hawks raise their young. The second year the crows moved in & were relentless in their attacks to the nest. It wore out the 2 hawks trying to protect it so the next year they moved the nest to another tree in the area. I never saw the hawks kill another bird. I did see them bring snakes lizards etc. to the nest to feed the young. I hope this helps.

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

    nidnay, I know that you made your query out of ignorance, but one day I hope that you realize how fortunate you are to have such a magnificent bird on your property. Your song birds and their many predators can coexist. I would stop feeding the birds, however, if the hawk keeps returning.

    I stopped feeding birds in our yard. My trees and shrubs are filled with a colorful and noisy array of beautiful birds earning their living all on their own.

    Think about it.

    P.S. Snakes, squirrels, nest robbing birds, and CATS are tops on the list of song bird predators, not hawks.

  • mad_gallica

    Oh, another thought . . . .

    What is the bear situation where you currently are? Contrary to popular belief, bears do not steal picnic baskets. They much prefer raiding bird feeders. I once had one try to climb the trellis I built for some New Dawn roses, and end up falling backwards on top of them in pursuit of the bird feeder.

    . . . and I don't live on 7 acres, but on 1 acre in a development.

  • AnnKH

    A quick search shows that red shouldered hawks eat mammals, not birds. Enjoy your lovely hawks!

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Ann, you might want to do more research :-) Yes, they eat small mammals....but they also eat amphibians, reptiles and birds. And larger insects and crawfish. Diet will vary by season and availability of prey.

    From one source: "During winters, red-shouldered hawks sometimes habituate to preying on birds commonly found at bird feeders." Hence the suggestions to stop using the feeders to attract songbirds....it's like you are providing an all-you-can-eat buffet!!

  • jmm1837

    I would love to have hawks nesting in my back yard! In my previous house, we were on a regular flight path for a pair of sea eagles, and it was really special to see them heading out to sea, then coming back with a fish in their talons to feed the chicks. I fully agree that, if you want song birds, plant bird-attracting native plants. Much better for the habitat in general, and better for the birds as well. And don't touch the hawks!

  • Hot Rod

    You moved into the hawk's territory and now you want to make them leave?

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    I removed the bird feeders from our yard to get rid of the bears. it eventually worked.

  • PRO

    Several years ago, I arrived one morning at my summer pulmonary rehab to discover that a "mass murder" had occurred the night before. There were multiple bird feeders outside the windows on a courtyard, and that morning, the ground was littered with the remains of the birds. A red winged hawk was sitting on the power line. A few new birds would fly in for breakfast, see the carnage and the hawk and take off.

    A few of these happened again, and they finally had to stop feeding the birds. No more mass carnage.

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    I honestly find it difficult to believe that a red tailed or red shouldered hawk (there is no red winged hawk, though there is a small falcon that has red colored wings) caused “mass” carnage unless the bird feeders were entirely exposed with no shelter available. Red tails and red shouldered hawks just aren’t that good at acrobatic flying, being built with broad wings for soaring or gliding rather than darting and so unable to kill more than occasional small bird, not many at once. Many at once sounds more like feral or free-roaming cats or similar, with perhaps the hawk arriving to take advantage of injured birds. Falcons, Cooper’s Hawks, and Sharp-shinned hawks are far more likely to kill small birds.

    Nidnay, as you can likely tell from the first paragraph, I am a fan of hawks. Red shoulders often reuse nests, and it is illegal to harass them. You would be best served by mad gallica’s first comment, that the feeders are too exposed. The little birds need dense shrubs near the feeders to allow them to find shelter when threatened. Consider moving the feeders to another side of the building where there are windows for viewing, and plant a number of shrubs nearby the feeders.

    And as MG mentioned, feeding birds during warm weather is discouraged in many rural and suburban areas in New England because they attract black bears. So folks who feed birds around here set up the bird feeders after the bears are in hibernation for the winter and take them down before they emerge in spring. You might want to check with your department of game or natural resources to see if they are an issue in your area.

  • PRO
    Springtime Builders

    Been feeding birds in current backyard over a decade. Have a red shoulder who frequents the past few years and have noticed no difference in the amount of birds, even when the hawk is perched nearby. The feeder is in a well protected location.

    Me and a neighbor have seen the hawk snatch rats out of our backyards. The hawk is more interesting to me than most songbirds. Neighborhood cats are the problem for our birds.

  • AnnKH

    We have Coopers hawks and peregrine falcons in our neighborhood. Both feed primarily on birds, but they also migrate out of our area in the winter, so they don't bother my feeders.

    My favorite neighborhood birds, however, are the great horned owls! Not only are they amazing to watch, and fun to hear, they help keep down the rabbit population.

  • Kristin S

    I'm jealous that you see your owls, AnnKH! We hear them but can never spot them.

  • AnnKH
    The crows were harassing this one a few weeks ago.

  • Kim in PL (SoCal zone 10/Sunset 24)

    My experience has taught me the best way to attract a variety of birds to my urban garden is to grow plants they like to feed on and to provide water under shelter. Unsheltered water invites the predators to munch on the smaller birds, so I had to turn off one fountain. Even then, a nesting oriole was lost to crows spying into my garden from a high telephone pole uphill. One of them dove right through the large banana leaf where the bird had woven her nest. Sad, but nature can be cruel.

  • share_oh

    Not a fan of hawks here! I had a nesting pair in my side yard a few years ago - in the city. I couldn't let my toy poodle out without being with her every time. I carried a broom with me every time we went out. Once a hawk flew so low over my head I could've reached up and touched it. They seemed to have no fear of people.

    But, once their babies left the nest, I never saw them again and they didn't return the next year.

    My parents live on a small farm and used to be able to free range their chickens. Not any more due to hawks. Someone gave them a pair of ducks for their large ponds and the hawks got them too. :(

  • nidnay

    Just want to clarify a few things. I have been feeding birds for over 40 years and I in no way consider them pets. I do though thoroughly enjoy inviting them into the yard and love hearing them sing and seeing them flit about in the trees....totally feeds my soul. I also have no problem with hawks or birds of prey (we also have owls ....I hear them at night). I just was not too thrilled about the hawks nesting right in my yard and and creating a not so inviting habitat for the other birds. They do still come, but much less so. I fully understand that hawks are protected and I have no intention of harming them.

    We’ve only been in our new home for 6 months and havent done any landscaping yet so there is not much cover for the birds aside from what is around naturally (although this has not bothered them until now). Someone mentioned upthread about putting cover directly beneath the feeder which is something I would never do. I never plant anything next to my feeders or birdbaths. I always leave a very wide berth with nothing around them. Vegetation under and around them make it too easy for a cat or snake to hide and easily sneak up on an unwary bird (I’ve seen this happen in my early birding years when I had limited knowledge and planted bushes under a birdbath).

    I have to say that I am looking forward a bit to seeing baby hawks in the nest (if all goes well). I would just like some advice on ways to discourage this pair from nesting here again next year. Please, don’t bother to tell me not to feed the birds. Been doing it for decades and am not about to stop. I never had to deal with nesting birds of prey though. I will say though that the hawks have been pretty low key. They’re mainly up there quietly sitting on the eggs although that could all change once the eggs hatch and the feeding begins.

  • nidnay

    Oh.....we have no bears here btw, so thankfully don’t have to worry about them at all.

  • PRO

    I’m sure it was a red shoulder- not up on my hawk varieties anymore. It was definitely the hawk that got the birds. The multiple feeders were totally exposed- no their vegetation in this courtyard. They had hoped when rehab moved to a new location with lovely, lush, dense landscaping that this would solve the problem but it did not. Removing the feeders did. We do miss seeing the birds while on the various exercise equipment- made it less boring.

  • Kristin S

    Discouraging hawks is hard, particularly when you're providing an ample food source. There's a Planet Money podcast about the problem that free range chicken farms have with, as well as a followup in which the farmer seems to have found a (listener-suggested) solution to deter them. I highly recommend giving it a listen (because it's interesting, if nothing else) and maybe you'll be able to borrow ideas on what works and doesn't.

    nidnay thanked Kristin S
  • Hot Rod

    Well, if you're not going to change your ways, you're going to have hawks.

    This thread reminds me of people that buy houses near airports then complain about the airplane noise!

  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

    I was just wondering about the evidence that small bird numbers are declining on the OP's land. I don't know anything about where nidnay is located but where I am birds are noisiest in late winter and early spring. They stop singing so much once they have established territories, found mates and are beginning the hard work of raising youngsters. Things 'get a lot quieter' naturally. Avian activity doesn't stay the same all year round. If you've lived somewhere for less than a year you might not be aware of what is normal for seasonal bird activity on your land. Just a thought.

  • J Williams

    Not sure what park dwelling hawks we have here, but they do eat pigeons, something has to. I wish they ate our squirrels too, they get very mangy and burrow into our roofs. I know we have red tails in the ravines, and I’ve seen a Cooper hawk in our backyard which was definitely attracted to our neighbours bird feeder. I like the idea of a bird feeder, but here it just seems to attract masses of rodents like squirrels and rats. The birds here seem to really like my virginia creeper vine, the small birds like perennial sunflower, coneflower and hyssop. (I leave the seed heads on over winter) Just FYI, it‘s “berth” not “birth” as in: give a wide berth. Maybe having local hawks will end up being a benefit?

    nidnay thanked J Williams
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    ^^ What the heck are you reading?? I see nothing "rude" or "downright nasty" in any of the comments!! Just some practical suggestions. If you attract prey animals to your garden or your property then you shouldn't be overly surprised if you attract their predators as well.

  • alphacrux

    Get a border collie. Ours scans the sky for hawks and runs around and barks at them.

  • nidnay

    Dang J Williams, I knew that.....I hate when my fingers go faster than my brain..... I’m not as ignorant as I seem :) All fixed.

    I know there are some here who just go bonkers when they see grammatical and spelling errors and make snide and sarcastic comments when they find them. I appreciate that you gave your correction with grace. And just to note....auto “correct” made no less than five incorrect corrections while I was typing this post. So to the other grammatical and spelling police out there.....ease up on the insults to those who have spelling errors. It’s not always because they don’t know how to spell.

  • Hot Rod

    Newenglandgal - she DID say she was not going to change anything:

    Please, don’t bother to tell me not to feed the birds. Been doing it for decades and am not about to stop.

  • illsstep

    Honestly, NewEnglandgal, I think you're as much an obstacle to pleasant discourse on forums like these as any other poster in this thread - if not more so. Spare us the self-righteous lectures and weirdly thin-skinned responses to perfectly polite discussions - and please actually read the posts before being so critical.

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    Bluntness isn’t the same as rudeness.

    Any illness is far more likely to spread in the more concentrated populations around a bird feeder, so that is an argument against feeding the birds.

    There really is nothing legal that nidnay can do to discourage the hawks. Interfering with the nest even when empty is also not legal. She needs either to give the tweety birds places to feel safe like shrubbery where they can dive deep for safety, and/or move the feeders to a place not within sight of the hawk nest and/or stop feeding.

  • nidnay

    I do agree with NewEnglandgal and do not agree that she is an obstacle to pleasant discorse.....Some of it in this thread I did find unpleasant. I don’t need to be scolded, mocked or ridiculed which is the way some of the posts came across (not all though.....thank you everyone else for your thoughtful suggestions and stories). Now I will say that the negative input here has been very mild compared to other threads I’ve visited....they could make your hair curl. I really do think though we have lost our understanding of how to communicate in a gracious manner and have little ability to put ourselves on the receiving end of a lot of the criticism we dish out (I will include myself here.....I always have to watch carefully how I respond to others I disagree with).

    Hot Rod.....I did NOT say I was not going to change anything. I did say I would not stop feeding birds....so what you wrote is completely inaccurate. Also, the ENTIRE POINT of the thread and my question was how to prevent nesting hawks from coming back and nesting in the yard next year which would enable me to continue feeding the birds and have them visit the way they normally would. So feeding the birds was a given and I think this concept would be very simple to understand for the average person reading my original post. As I mentioned, Ive been feeding birds for decades and this has never been an issue.

    Hugs and kisses to you all.

  • NewEnglandgal

    Ok illstep youre right Im self righteous. Im out of all these forums. Good luck Nidnay hope you xan figure something out.

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

    Actually, the word ignorance is not a negative word. Upon reading nidnay's original post, I interpreted her question was based on simple ignorance of state and federal laws regarding the protection of bird of prey, ignorance regarding how her practice of feeding her beloved song birds is akin to setting out a smorgasbord for their predators, ignorance about the generally accepted methods of mitigating the dangers.

    Nidnay, I remembered something that might be useful to you regarding the hawks. Back when I did feed birds artificially, I found that if I stopped feeding them temporarily, hawks would become disinterested in stalking the area. You might seriously consider taking the feeders down while the hawks are minding the nest and during the fledgling period.

    By the way, I don't know your general location, but I thought of another critter that is a huge problem for songbirds, especially those still in the nest.....fire ants!

  • One Devoted Dame

    Get a border collie. Ours scans the sky for hawks and runs around and barks at them.

    I like this idea. :-)

    A medium, large, or giant breed dog -- without an interest in birds -- would be a natural deterrent for many predators. Nidnay, would you be interested in getting a dog?

  • Pinebaron

    Though I have no bird feeders yet, there is abundant food almost all year for some interesting wildlife around our home which includes Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, owls, mallards plus a host of other birds; on the ground I’ve personally seen a red fox, a cougar, deer to name a few...

    Below is photo I snapped yesterday of a Heron resting on the edge of our pond.

  • AnnKH

    The biggest issue in our neighborhood is trying to keep mallards from wanting to nest next to the neighbor's in ground swimming pool. We have severe winters, so the pool hasn't been opened up yet when the ducks arrive.

  • nidnay

    Anna....maybe your neighbor should get rid of their pool (completely kidding here) :)

  • One Devoted Dame

    You know what looks *fantastic* next to a pool?

    A Newfoundland puppy.


  • Kristin S

    ODD, I'm thinking just about everything looks better next to a Newfoundland puppy :-).

  • jmm1837
    Nidnay - I think the main point at least some of us are trying to make is that you shouldn't try to find ways of driving the hawks away. Instead, you should find ways of providing protection (within reason) for the birds you're trying to attract. Planting bird attracting plants which provide "cover" is one way, and careful placement of feeders is another.

    And make sure you're blaming the right predator: where I used to live, aside from the sea eagles there were peregrine falcons, kites, owls and goshawks but the worst predator was actually a bird called a currawong, which is a bit similar to a crow in looks and size, so not a classic raptor at all. It was far more devasting to small birds than any of the usual birds of prey.
  • Lori Wagerman_Walker

    That escalated quickly...

    I have several feeders in my back yard, have always been busy, busy, busy. Until about 6-8 months ago. I'm not going through the amount of food we were at all! We have a red tail that cruises thru once in a while. I don't think nesting close, but stops in frequently enough that I've been a bit concerned about my cats that go outside. I hadn't really thought about it making the other birds less active.

    TBH I'd convinced myself it was a large chainsaw carving of two cardinals that my husband bought me at the end of the summer. It sounds crazy but since I placed that "statue", that's about the time I noticed the less bird activity. I'm going to move it out by the other garage as soon as we get the concrete porch poured.

    I said all that to say... maybe it's not my fake cardinals at all, maybe its the hawk. Orrrrrr I'm just completely crazy!!

    niday, maybe you need a huge cardinal statue closer to the hawks and move your bird feeders closer to shelter. It could deter the hawks enough for the other birds to come back!! It could work in your benefit. I'm really curious to see what happens when I move it!

  • nidnay

    Jmm1837.....I don’t know that I’m blaming any specific predator for anything other than the red shoulder hawk nest being responsible for a decrease in bird activity at the feeders. We moved in in August of last year and everything has been great until a few weeks ago when the hawk nest appeared. This is really a no-brainer.

    Cover will be established when we do our plantings, but I can guarantee that will not increase bird activity by much. I’ve had other homes with a diversity of abundant cover, but when the hawks are nearby the birds stay away for the most part until the all-clear. As I stated before, the birds are still visiting, but just much less. I am adjusting to them being here (a bit) and do enjoy watching them. On a positive note, I’m saving money on bird seed because I don’t have to fill the feeders as often :)

    One Devoted Dame.....funny.....the only kind of dog I‘d ever considered was a some sort of teeny tiny lap dog. So our environment here would not be at all conducive to that kind of animal. Would make a tasty meal for some predator for sure (we do have coyotes here). Definitely don’t want a big hairy dog though (as much as I do love border collies - whats been bred into them make them fascinating animals).

  • One Devoted Dame

    One devoted dame.....funny.....the only kind of dog I‘be ever considered was a some sort of teeny tiny lap dog. So our environment here would not be at all conducive to that kind of animal. Would make a tasty meal for some predator for sure (we do have coyotes here).

    Yes, you're absolutely right. :-(

    I live outside city limits in Central Texas, and neighbors are always reporting missing cats and small dogs. :-(

    Maybe a decoy, like Miss Lori suggested above...? A wooden statue (of a "competitor") that you move around the garden every day?

  • Lori Wagerman_Walker

    I've got big/medium 4 dogs & 5 cats that go outside. Nothing has deterred the birds until the cardinal statue... Or... was it the hawk: That is the question!!

  • petalique

    nidnay, as someone pointed out upthread, rodents (even the really cute one) also enjoy the dropped birdseed. The red shouldered hawks would enjoy picking them off. My red tailed hawks enjoy toads, snakes and rodents. The Coopers and Sharpies like to prey on songbirds, juncos and MODOs.

    Can you grow rhododendron and azalea in your area? Those might make good year-round shelter for birds — even just a few feet away.

    Glad someone else gets heckled by auto-correct ;)

    I love hawks, birdies, critters. Bears fascinate me, but I don’t want to encourage them.

  • Lynn in Parkton, Maryland

    I thought this thread might need some stimulation :)

    While I am pleased to see all types of birds on my property, due to a very unpleasant experience with a cooper hawk family, I would prefer not to have them around. I have barn swallows that come back each year to nest in my bard and they eat tons of bugs and are fun to watch. Several years ago a cooper hawk family moved in and killed all the babies and almost all of the adult barn swallows. It was nothing short of a massacre. It not only killed and ate the birds, it torn their nests down from under the eaves. The next day after all the swallows were gone, it literally was sitting in the barn on the tractor seat and refused to leave when my husband entered. He had to use a broom to get it out of the barn. I would rather have barn swallows and pileated woodpeckers than cooper hawks. I did read that they have actually been known to drown their prey by holding it under water until it stops moving. And, they are not used for falconing because they tend to try to take their handlers faces off.

    Nasty, nasty birds. No thanks. I don't want them here.

  • J Williams

    I put a cat statue in the garden a few years ago, and the cats were freaked out by it, it wasn’t even realistic looking. Also, I carelessly left my sons snake toy in the garden years ago, a squirrel saw it and lept vertically right up into the air like it was on an elevator. I only got that reaction once.

  • alphacrux

    Our border collie is a rescue dog who used to live on a ranch. We are guessing she was trained on the ranch to scan for predators who might endanger the “flock”. We were initially very surprised by this behavior, but it (and chasing squirrels) provides endless hours of entertainment (and a silly open-mouthed grin on her face). Funny, she only cares about predatory birds. We have a bird feeder, and she doesn't care about regular birds, nor do the regulars care that she is in the yard.

    Too bad a “hairy” dog is not for you. She is definitely hairy and sheds a lot, and likes to dig a deep “dog nest” in the garden. She comes in filthy, but happy (she’s a “working dog after all). Oh, btw, she’s a great mouser too!

    I hope you find a solution that works for you!

  • AnnKH

    We have a local bird expert who bands and studies Cooper's hawks. A few years ago a friend of mine had a nest in his yard, and Tim came over to band the 4 chicks. He also caught the mother, who had been banded before, to evaluate her condition. The babies were quiet, calm and relaxed. Our Boy Scout troop was invited over to watch the banding, and we all got to hold chicks. Several of the adults (including my husband) held the adult. She did not make a fuss at all while being handled.

    So I was surprised to read Lynn's assertion that Cooper's hawks are not used in falconry. The first article I found described the stereotype of the Cooper's as being an "aggressive, face-grabbing psycho" is a myth. about Cooper's hawks

    Peregrine falcons are another story! The same raptor expert bands peregrine chicks that are born in a nest box on a local water tower. I watched that process once, and the 2 chicks (the same age as the Cooper's chicks) never stopped squawking and complaining. No way would he let anyone lese handle these babies! The parents circled the small crowd, also calling loudly the entire time. The banding guy said if there was a raptor parade, the peregrine would be the grand marshal.

    Cooper's hawk chick

    Peregrine chick - about twice the size of the Cooper's

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