Thom Smith | Naturewatch: Wire may deter birds from roosting on awning

Q: We enjoy your articles and hope you have a suggestion how to deter small birds from perching and pooping from our 20-foot, wind-out deck awning cowl structure mounted on our house. What we think are little finch and sparrows leave a mess on our deck during much of the year. Our long-term deterrent, including moth ball sacks, floating ribbons, plastic owls and crumpled newspapers, haven't been effective or fun. Any other ideas?

— Rick and Cindy, Adams, Mass.

A: You may seek advice from a professional awning installer or if you persist in trying to find home-grown alternatives, the quick remedy is to roll up the awning when not in use.

This, you may have to do consistently when you are not using the deck, at least as long as the flock of birds that I assume are house sparrows, persist in pooping. There often is reason for a small flock of house sparrows to congregate in one place, either shrubs that they hide or roost or do both in, or even a nearby bird feeder. I don't suggest eliminating the shrubs, but I do urge removal of a feeder.

I have hung fine wire to deter house sparrows from my sunflower seed feeders and it has been a success. I have also seen the use of fine wire strung over outdoor patios in Florida and elsewhere, and suggest the following: Try stringing two rows of monofilament fish line a few inches apart along the edge the full length of the awning. Also small gauge nylon or plastic-coated wire will work just as well, and come in a variety of colors, one of which may match or come close to the awning's color. The trick is to string whatever you choose above the awning, a half inch to an inch, with the first at the very edge and the second an inch in.

If a reader has another suggestion, let us hear from you.


- Even woodland rock outcroppings have a bit of cheerful color if adorned with evergreen growths of polypody fern, that at first appear to resemble small Christmas ferns that may be growing nearby on the forest floor beneath a snowy blanket.

And yes, there is color in winter, and not just green. Look for the bright stems and branches of red-osier dogwood along wetlands and roadsides.

- It is said around the 18th and 20th, a warming trend, the January Thaw, may occur. Although looking back to my childhood, I most remember these thaws occurring in February, during school vacation when we all wanted to be outside skating and it was raining.

- If you were outside in the quiet woods a few nights ago on what is called Twelfth Night (after Christmas), you may have heard soft talking in the distance. According to European folklore, animals can speak on this night.

- A daytime walk in the woods at this time of the year can be pretty silent unless you encounter a small flock of chickadees and nuthatches that will sound as cheerful as ever.

- The January full moon was called the Full Wolf Moon during Colonial times, while the Woodland Indians also called it the Hunger Moon.


I vaguely remember camping out one night on top of Lenox Mountain with the full moon our only light. It was in the late 1950s as I recall, and it was breath-taking. I haven't been out very often under those conditions since them, perhaps only a couple times, so the following program attracted my attention: Bartholomew's Cobble in Sheffield, Mass., will offer a Full Moon and Hot Toddy Snowshoe walk from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13. Have you ever enjoyed a full moon on top of a hill covered in snow? It is an experience not to be missed! Meet at the Cobble for this magical night on snowshoes. Don't have snowshoes? No worries, there will be some to rent for an additional fee. For more information, call 413-298-3239, ext. 3013, or email Members, $5; nonmembers, $10. Just hope for a clear, crisp night!

Thom Smith welcomes your questions and comments. Email him at or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.


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