Returning Birds: Tips to Help Our Feathered Friends

Here are a few things to do to roll out the welcome mat when the birds are returning, as well as to get in a little birdwatching

Strange as it may sound, brushing the dog is one of those little things we can do to help returning birds get a head start on spring.

It isn’t that they like to see a well-groomed pooch. What birds like the iconic blue jay like most are the clumps of hair that come out of the brush. Cleaning your dog brush outside provides superb nesting materials for birds, making it just a little easier for them to build their nests.

Here are a few other things you can do to roll out the welcome mat as we all #StayHome… and get in a little birdwatching, one of the top things to do in Ontario in springtime.


Clean the Nesting Boxes

Man-made nesting boxes are a great help to cavity-nesting species. But boxes that still have debris from last year’s tenants can also be home to fungus, bacteria, or parasites. Be a good landlord and clean out any old nesting materials (best to wear gloves and a mask). If there are any signs of mold, a quick wash with detergent will help keep your new tenants healthy.

Don't have any nesting boxes? Click here to find some great plans from Ontario Nature.


Top Up the Birdfeeders

Migrating is one of the toughest things birds do. They pass through thousands of kilometres of territory, often not eating for days as they travel. When they arrive, they need to quickly restore their energy levels so they can get ready for nesting. A buffet of seeds, suet, and other treats is just the thing.


Keep Kitty Indoors

She may not look it, but your cat is a deadly killing machine. Because cats don’t just kill when they’re hungry, a typical house cat can kill an estimated 10 to 12 birds a day. That adds up to 200 million birds in Canada alone every year – the biggest cause of bird deaths by far. And sorry, but bells on a cat’s collar have been shown to have little or no effect.


Pull the Blinds

Tall office towers aren’t the only things birds collide with as they’re migrating. Well-lit homes and cottages are also a problem. Many birds migrate at night, and are attracted to the light streaming from the window. Pulling the blinds can save some birds (as well as helping combat other woes of light pollution). Ribbons in the windows or temporary pattern decals can help birds avoid the glass during the day.

Fatal Light Awareness Program Canada has some great resources available to help make your home bird safe. Also, be sure to check out the self-assessment tool at


Plant Native Species

Feeders are great, but native plants are an even better resource. Dogwood and Joe Pye Weed, Saskatoon berries and cedars are just the beginning. There are all kinds of plants that can enhance your landscape and provide birds with a home or food throughout the year. North American Native Plant Society is one of many great resources.


Let Old Trees Be

Woodpeckers and other insect-eaters thrive on the bugs they gather from dead trees. Other birds make their nests in the holes the birds create. Dead standing trees are like a high-rise apartment building with grocery stores every few floors. If you have one on your property, and it’s not a safety hazard, consider leaving it alone.


Cap Your Vents

If you don’t have a cap on your chimney, you should install one. Otherwise, birds and small mammals can get trapped inside. The result is unpleasant for you, and deadly for them.




Andrew Wagner-Chazalon is the managing editor and CEO of Dockside Publishing, and writes about the luxuries to be found in Muskoka and throughout Central Ontario.