About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Birds pecking holes in screens

I have a neighbor who had asked me if I knew why birds might peck holes into one of their (bedroom) window screens.  I haven’t been able to find an answer yet.  There are holes only at the bottom of it, and in no other screens at their house.  It is very near a small tree (or very lrg. bush) they have.  So the window doesn’t seem to get a lot of sun in it throughout the day, if that makes any difference. Thanks for any input.

Finch collecting nesting material
I've never heard of birds pecking away at screens. He could be looking at his reflection behind the screen or using the screen as nesting material. However, you need to repair the hole in the screen as soon as possible and then find a way to deter the bird from returning.

Strategies to Control Bird Damage
Unfortunately, there is no easy guaranteed solution. So with that being said, try the following strategies:

1. Check for insects. Birds feed on insects in wood.
2. Cover or repair all damage as soon as possible.
3. Scare the bird away using one or more of the following:
  • Mylar tape: Wild Birds Unlimited has some Mylar tape (1-inch-wide strips) flutter ribbon you can hang in the area. If you don't have Mylar, hang tinfoil, aluminum pie plates, or old CDs or DVDs.
  • Mylar balloons: The dollar stores usually have shiny Mylar balloons you can hang in the area. The helium filled, shiny balloons will scare the birds away with their motion.
  • Garden hose: One animal damage controller recommends placing a garden hose with a sprinkler set at an angle to reach where the bird is pecking.
  • Attack spider: This is a relatively new (2003) technique. A large spider drops down at the first knock to scare birds through sight and motion. These can be found at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing and party stores now. It also scares little trick or treaters. Bonus!
  • Rubber snake: I’ve had some customers report back that a little rubber snake scares the birds away.

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Anonymous said...

I am an eye witness who observed a bright yellow finch taking pieces of my fiberglass screen to use as nesting material. He had taken two inches of my screen before we noticed, since we do not open that window very often. He has also made several small holes in other nearby window screens in the upper level of our home. We will try your suggestions regarding scaring him away, since we have just repaired the damaged screens.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't believe it if it weren't happening to us. They have unraveled a good 4". Perhaps I will try to modify their behavior before spending money on a new screen. I appreciate the suggestions very much! -Tennessee

Anonymous said...

House sparrows are doing this to our screens now. I have sprayed it with Bitter Apple. I'll try the aluminum foil. Deb Lovett

Anonymous said...

The holes in my screen is now large enough for the birds to come through, or, for the cat to fall out if it goes after the birds. I'm here with the window open, and a squirt bottle in hand -- but clearly this goes on often and I can't always be here -- and it's only 40 degrees outside. I assume the birds are adding insulation to their nests for the winter time. I'm torn between replacing it, and maybe having the same thing happen to the new one, or leaving it -- which means eventually I'll have all the things coming into the house that a screen was meant to prevent. Rubber snake and mylar -- I'll give it a shot. If it works, then I guess I replace the screen and keep the snake & mylar.

It's a hell of a thing.....

Anonymous said...

How very smart birds are indeed!
An entire brood of finches have ‘eaten’ 3 (of my neighbor’s) windows screens.
Using my binocular, I watched them peck neat rows (always bottom to top) and fly off with a mouthful of weatherd fiber-glass material!

Now, to stop the finches from destroying your screens, you DO have to REPLACE YOUR SCREENS! WHY? Well, because....
Old (rain & wind weathered) screens are EASILY shred! The fiber-glass fibers have become thin and soft, and the finches prefer them to any other nest building material!

Rule of thumb;

snow fleas said...

October 15, 2017.
We had the same problem with small birds clinging to the screens and pulling strands out of them last year. These are all second floor windows. I used stick-on screen patches for the large window screens and have not seen them bothering them again (yet). We replaced the small bathroom screen last year and they are picking at the new screen already.
It is mid-October, so they must be preparing their nests for winter. If there was a product available that I could give them, I would happily supply them with nesting material to keep them from destroying the screens.
I thought of filling a bird feeder or suet feeder with cotton balls, but am not sure if the cotton would get too wet for them in the nest. Very short strands of fine fishing line might get caught around their feet. If anyone has any suggestions, please leave a comment.

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

Clean pet hair or raw cotton can be stuffed into an old mesh onion sack or an unused suet cage and hung from trees and bushes for birds to use in nest building. Wild Birds Unlimited also sells natural raw cotton.

They also use dried grasses in their nest construction. It’s best to keep your lawn free of weed and feed chemicals. Other construction materials can include twigs, dead leaves, feathers, plant fluff or down (e.g. cattail fluff, cottonwood down or Canada Thistle fluff).

Avoid using dryer lint. Lint from man made fabrics hardens after getting wet providing poor nest insulation.

snow fleas said...

Since my last comment on Oct. 15,2017, I have checked the other upstairs windows. These birds seem to have been discouraged from picking the threads of fibreglass once the pieces of "stick-on" screen patches have been put in place. The windows that they choose are the upstairs windows that face south. There is also a cedar hedge below on that side of the house, so maybe the only pick at those screens because they are most handy. Maybe the sun has made those screens easier to remove fibres. They are definitely not pecking at their own reflections and are not after bugs. They are taking the threads away with them and coming back for more.
Last year I bought peel and stick screen patches and patched the two larger window screens. The birds have picked beside the patches but have not done a lot of damage (yet). I am guessing that the stick-on patches prevent them from pulling out strands long enough to be worth the effort. I can't remember for sure where I bought mine, but it would have been either the local Home Hardware or from a Lee Valley store when we were away from our small town. These patches are meant for window screens and also for screened tents, so they are probably available wherever camping gear is sold.
I am going to buy some more of them and patch the new screen (replaced last fall) that they have started to use for their nest. A bit of clear glue or clear nail polish strategically placed might also work in a pinch but the air can't get through with that method and it doesn't look as nice. Too bad there isn't a spray that re-enforces the screen without blocking the holes.
I feel bad now, because the first bedroom window, that we noticed, had been picked at was in the same bedroom that our old cat used to sleep in. There was a low dresser by the window with a cat-bed so that he could sun himself. I had scolded him for putting holes in the screen. Now that he is gone we find that the screen is still being destroyed along with others that he had no way or reaching. So, if you have one, it is probably not your cat that is putting holes in your screens.
I really hope that this comment helps anyone who has this problem with birds.

I am also very grateful for the information about dryer lint hardening in the nest. I was quite surprised that human hair is not recommended. When I was in public school, our family lived on a farm where horses were boarded. The fences were made of wood, which the horses would chew. Their long coarse mane and tail hairs would get caught in the rough edges and I often saw birds taking the hairs away. I guess human hair is just too fine.