Backyard Bird Egg Thieves – Look Out for These Unsavory Sneaks

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Many different types of birds may nest right in your backyard. In the branches of trees and bushes, inside of tree cavities, ledges and under the eaves of your house, and in bird houses that you put out for them. Regardless of the species, when you put a birdhouse out you often feel a certain responsibility to keep the eggs safe if a bird decides to lay her eggs there.

The fact is though, this can be tough to accomplish. I’ll go over some of the animals that eat bird eggs that you should look out for. Using some of the tips in this article, you may also be able to have the upper hand when trying to keep your birdhouses safe.

Animals known for eating bird eggs

rat snake on birdhouse
Black rat snake on a birdhouse – photo by Jarek Tuszyński / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Eggs and baby birds alike can make easy meals for all of the animals listed below.  Not only that, they provide much needed protein and energy for snakes, small mammals, and other birds.

Below is a list of all different types of animals that eat bird eggs and may be lurking around your backyard at anytime looking for some delicious eggs. Which ones are a threat to birds in your yard will depends on where you live.

Birds

It may seem strange but yes, some larger birds will search out nests of smaller birds for eggs or young. Some birds known to do this are:

Snakes

Most snakes will eat bird eggs, and will go to great lengths to get to a nest or birdhouse. The fact is, eggs are nutritious for snakes and can be an easy meal. They might be your number one threat to any bird nests in your yard, rat snakes are notorious for getting into bird houses.  Here are a few common species of egg-eating snakes that may be lurking in your backyards:

  • King snakes
  • Rat snakes
  • Gopher snakes
  • Hognose snakes
  • Garter snakes
  • Bull snakes
  • Pine snakes

Lizards

When you think of lizards, you usually think small lizards. Such as the blue-tailed skink, swifts, or green and brown anoles. These smaller lizards would have trouble stealing eggs, however there is a larger species of lizard that is not native to North America but can be found in south Florida around the Everglades. That lizard is the Tegu and they can get pretty big, up to about 4.5 feet big. This is not a typical backyard threat, but I found it interesting and thought it worth mentioning for south Florida residents. There have been reports of Tegus found in people’s backyards in other parts of the country though.

  • Tegu lizards – Found in south Florida and mainly in the Everglades, Tegus are not native to North America but South America. They are commonly sold as pets from exotic pet stores then let go in an area when they get too big where they can not only survive, but thrive. One of the ways they do this is by eating the eggs of many different types of eggs including alligator eggs, ground-nesting birds, and sea turtles.

Mammals

There are quite a few different egg-thieving mammals that may regularly visit your property in search of food. Several of which are nocturnal and feel safer when it’s nice and quiet in the still of night like raccoons and opossums.

  • Hedgehogs
  • Squirrels
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Chipmunks
  • Opossums
  • Cats

 

How to tell if the eggs have hatched or been eaten

Snakes will eat eggs whole, so they leave no trace. Many of the other animals on the lists above will carry the eggs off so you may not find any evidence of an eaten egg. A hatched bird egg will have the top completely missing and it will be fairly obvious the opening was big enough for the baby bird to get out. An egg that was killed will usually just have a large hole poked in it done just to kill them. Many times aggressive and territorial birds will do this, such as starlings.

What can I do to protect the nests and birdhouses?

Most of the time you just have to let nature take its course and hope for the best, especially if it’s a naturally built bird nest by the parents. However, you do have some options to keep your birdhouses safer and give them some added protection. There are safeguards that are sold that you can use to protect the nests from predators. Some people get creative and make their own nest guards, if you are handy you can certainly do this. Check out this PDF put out by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources on how to make your own stovepipe or conical baffle. 

Below are some tips for protecting nests and some tips on what not to do to protect bird nests.

Predator guards for birdhouses

Achla Designs Squirrel Deflector For 4 by 4 Post

 

  • Baffle – If your bird house is on a thin pole, adding a baffle like this one may help deter bird egg thieves from being able to climb it. If you are using a larger 4×4 post for your birdhouse, then try this baffle.
  • Noel Guard – Invented by Jim Noel, a noel guard is kind of like a little open ended cage that goes around the opening of a bird house that prevents different types animals from getting in. Here’s a predator guard on Amazon and is designed for keeping snakes and other predators out.
  • Extended Roof – if cats or raccoons are a problem, add a roof to the top of the box that extends at least 5-6 inches out. This will make it harder for cats or raccoons to reach into the nest box hole.

Also consider location. If snakes are prevalent in your area, your birdhouse would be safest mounted on top of a pole in your yard, away from trees and branches. Snakes can climb trees easily and access the next box from below or above. But if their only option is to climb up the pole, and you have one of the above predator guards in place, they will have to think twice.

What not to do

  • Do not put vaseline on your birdhouse pole. While this can be effective for making it hard for snakes to climb up to bird houses and ants climb up to feeders, it is dangerous for the birds if they get any of the greasy substance on their feathers and can even be fatal.
  • Don’t kill snakes and animals in your yard to protect the nests. Snakes and other animals that eat bird eggs are just trying to survive, they aren’t evil. It’s a terrible feeling to see that the eggs you been watching and waiting on to hatch are suddenly gone, but don’t resort to killing anything.

Conclusion

It can be heartbreaking to have a bluebirds nesting in a house that you bought, or maybe even hand made for them, only to have the eggs eaten by a egg-stealing predator. Very frustrating indeed. Many people want to resort to taking a garden hoe to a snake or resorting to violence to rid your yard of these pests. In the end though, this is the cycle of life and we have to respect it. All we can do is take the appropriate measure to give our nesting birds and their young a fighting chance at survival using a few of the tips and recommendations above. Good luck!

About Jesse

Jesse enjoys bird watching and feeding birds in his backyard, learning about the different species, and sharing his knowledge and experiences.

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