“Help! A hawk has started hanging around my bird feeders. How can I make it go away, so it doesn’t eat my birds?!”
The above question, or some version of it, is one of the most common that I receive. I can always tell that the person asking has a GIANT heart, and the last thing they want to see is the songbirds or squirrels they attracted get eaten.
I never know exactly what to say because by deciding to feed birds, it’s almost inevitable that hawks will be hanging around with the increased activity. Personally, I enjoy observing these beautiful birds of prey. I know it’s sad when they capture something, but I like to think that they are feeding their babies somewhere, and without that food, they would starve.
- RELATED: 16 Types of Hawks that Live in North America (Includes the species that hunt backyard birds!)
Regardless, I decided to sit down and provide some things you can do to help ensure that hawks aren’t successful hunting in your backyard.
Below are 3 easy tips that will help keep hawks away from your bird feeders.
Make sure to read to the end. You will also learn about strategies that DON’T work.
#1. Take your feeders down for a week.
Let me be honest with you:
If you feed birds in your backyard, you WILL attract hawks.
Like any predator, raptors are attracted to places where their prey hangs out. This makes sense if you think about any animal documentary that you’ve ever watched. Typically, the show will display a giant herd of wildebeest and zebras on the African Savannah. Then in the next scene, lions, hyenas, and leopards are shown hunting these mass gatherings!
So knowing this, there is only ONE guaranteed way to keep hawks away from your bird feeders, and it’s what I call the “nuclear option.”
You need to stop feeding the birds temporarily!
I know that’s what you probably don’t want to hear, but it’s true. If you take down your feeders, then the crowds of birds in your backyard will disperse, and so will the hawks.
Personally, I have found that there are times of the year when hawks are more numerous than others. For example, I tend to see the most raptor activity in the fall after juveniles have fledged from the nest. If the predation bothered me, I could easily take down the feeders temporarily and put them back out after the hawks have moved on.
My recommendation is to experiment in your yard or even keep a journal of sightings throughout the year. This way, you will know when there are more hawks in your yard than usual.
#2. Put your bird feeders near safety!
This is my favorite way to prevent hawks from killing feeder birds.
I mean, who wants to constantly take down their feeders every time that they see a hawk? It seems like a lot of effort, and it’s not even guaranteed to keep your songbirds safe, as raptors can easily sneak into your yard before you notice they’re there.
Instead, try this:
Place your bird feeders in the safest location possible!
As much as I enjoy seeing hawks in my backyard, I still prefer for them to catch and eat their prey elsewhere. So when I set up my bird feeding station, I picked a location that gave the feeder birds every possible advantage. You have to make sure they are not sitting ducks (no pun intended)!
Here are two things to think about:
A. Place your feeders near brush and shelter:
Hawks are mainly ambush predators. They sit and wait for their prey and then surprise attack with enormous speed.
To help your songbirds, put your feeders near somewhere they can hide, such as trees, bushes, or other brush. That way, as soon as they see a hawk coming, it’s not far for them to fly to safety! The farther into an open area your bird feeders are located, the more susceptible they are to an attack.
Check out the below video to get a tour of my backyard and bird feeding station. You can see how I placed my feeders very close to the edge of the woods!
As an added bonus, having your feeders near a potential shelter also means you will attract more birds. There are many species that won’t feel comfortable eating out in the open due to the likelihood of being hunted.
The only problem with having your feeding station close to trees and brush is that it’s easier for squirrels to jump onto your feeders!
B. Put your feeders underneath something:
As we just discussed, hawks are ambush predators, and they almost always perch high in a tree so they can attack from above!
By providing protection from above, any hawk that decides to attack must come from the side. This small change should help give additional time for your birds to get away.
Some examples of places that provide protection are underneath low-hanging tree branches, awnings, or even gazebos.
In my yard, I put my feeders close to safety AND under tree branches.
This combination helps to keep my birds extremely safe. I have live cameras that watch my bird feeders all day, every day, so someone is always monitoring what’s going on in my backyard. In the past few years, I can count on two hands the number of times a hawk has caught a bird.
In fact, it’s fun to watch how many the hawks have MISSED!
Watch ABOVE to see 25 times that hawks attacked my feeders unsuccessfully!
#3. Don’t feed birds and squirrels on the ground!
Hawks rarely catch anything on your actual feeders. Instead, they have MUCH better success hunting for birds and squirrels that are eating ON THE GROUND.
To avoid having hawks successfully hunt, keep bird food OFF the ground!
So, how do you do this?
Pay close attention to your feeders!
Most birds are messy eaters and will poke through and throw birdseed around, looking for the food they want to eat. You are going to need bird feeders that don’t allow birds to do this!
Most hopper feeders and trays are probably bad options since birds can sit on a platform and have plenty of room to throw food around, leading to some ending up on the ground.
Look for feeders where birds must reach inside to grab a piece of food.
One feeder that would be a good choice is the Absolute II.
The seed is enclosed in the food reservoir and has a metal lip that prevents (much) food from spilling out. It’s one of my favorite feeders since it’s durable, squirrel-proof, and holds a lot of food.
Another way to prevent foods from ending up on the ground is to install a tray underneath the feeders. Many tube feeders have trays that you can secure to the bottom. You can also attach a dish or bin that catches fallen seeds.
What are things you SHOULDN’T do to prevent hawks?
Every so often, whether it’s on social media or another website, I see people say things about how to stop hawks that don’t work or are just cruel.
In no particular order, here are some things you should ignore.
I’m still not sure why a hawk would be scared of a piece of plastic that looks like an owl? Hawks are incredibly adapted and efficient hunters, so I think we should give them more credit. 🙂
I have seen people who want to prevent hawks by using ultrasonic bird repellents, which scare away birds using sound.
Umm… even if this does work, it would also scare away all the birds at your feeders!
Shooting, trapping, or poison.
First, this is highly illegal. The federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects birds in the United States.
Second, killing a beautiful bird of prey is just mean and cruel. Please don’t do this.
Try to appreciate hawks in your backyard!
If possible, stop hating hawks so much, and learn to appreciate these spectacular birds of prey. They are exciting to watch.
And if you follow some of the tips in this article, I’m confident you can keep hawks away from your bird feeders.
Instead, they will be forced to hunt at your neighbors’ feeders. 🙂