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Befriend the birds? Yes, but beware!

By Chris Williams on February 20, 2013.

Bird feederIf you’re like me, you get a lot of enjoyment watching songbirds in your backyard. I have several feeders strategically placed around my yard providing entertainment for both my three cats, and me. The entire usual winter crowd is here… cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, and downy woodpeckers. Today I saw some mourning doves enjoying what the squirrels had dumped out of my so-called squirrel-proof feeder.

Anyway, what’s the worry? For now and the next few months, not much really, so enjoy your winter friends, but you might want to make a mental note for the spring if your property is called home for swifts, barn swallows, or phoebes. Each of these bird species prefers to build their nests attached to buildings. Swifts love chimneys while eaves, window ledges, and up underneath decking are favorite spots for swallows and phoebes. Robins too will sometimes nest on support beams for decks or on permanently installed air conditioning units. This is not so much the problem to be wary of (although swallow nest sites can become unsightly) but after the spring brood has fledged the nest, you may find that bird mites are invading your home.

There are two very common species that will readily bite humans in the absence of a bird host. (http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/bird-mites) Sanitation (nest removal, and cleaning up area) is usually the best course of action to take for control of bird mites, but if problems persist, contact insecticides may also be needed.

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