Before we know it, spring will be here, and birds will be nesting in the nesting boxes we have erected for them. Among the chores we all need to tackle in preparation for this year’s nesting season is trim back the vines, saplings and shrubs growing close to each of our nesting boxes.
One of the main reasons why this should be done is it helps protect the birds nesting in our boxes from arboreal snakes (those that climb trees). Snakes such as the rat snake are capable raiding nesting boxes erected on poles. For that reason, it is always best to mount nesting boxes on poles equipped with predator guards. However, even the best predator guards cannot protect a nest if vines encircle the pole or tall vegetation is growing nearby. Such plants create a veritable superhighway for snakes trying to raid a nesting box. Even if vegetation is not actually touching a box or pole, a snake can circumvent a predator guard and gain access to adults, eggs and/or young birds by simply climbing up nearby vegetation and then extending their body the distance between their head and the box.
For this reason, we need to make every effort to cut back tall vegetation in a wide circle around each nest. While we are creating this protection zone, any branches growing close to the top of the box should also be trimmed away. Snakes are also capable of using a canopy of branches to gain access to a nesting box.
Taking a little time to perform this simple task can give the birds nesting in our boxes a better chance of being successful.