In spring, inquisitive and naive recently-fledged birds can find rat traps very tempting.
To avoid catching them:
- Always place your rat trap inside a safety box/tunnel.
- We generally advise placing the safety box/tunnel beside parallel to a wall or fence, because rats often run along the base of these structures. However, if you are worried about birds (or pets) turn the box 90 degrees, so there is a small gap between the structure and the front of the box. Rats can squeeze into tiny spaces, but birds are unlikely to.
- Put traps in places easily accessible to rats, but less welcoming to birds, perhaps under a deck, behind the rubbish bins, inside an unused compost bin or in the garden shed.
- Place a pile of sticks (or make a wire mesh cover or extension) over the front of your safety box/tunnel that rats can easily navigate under/through, but birds will be less inclined to.
- Experiment with placing a piece of pipe in front of the entrance hole of the box/tunnel. Birds are unlikely to enter narrow dark spaces, but rats love them!
- Birds are attracted to wriggling maggots which can be present if dead predators are left in traps for more than a day or two. Clear your catches regularly to remove this potential food source both from the tunnel and the immediate area, but if maggots are present when the trap is reset, clear them from in and around the tunnel and don’t leave the carcass anywhere nearby.
- Avoid feeding birds in your garden (it’s not good for them anyway) and avoid placing your trap near natural sources of bird food, such as heavily seeding trees to avoid seeds ending up on the plate of your trap.
- Consider buying a sachet of Goodnature ‘Pre-feed paste - meat lovers’, which is formulated to attract rats (and stoats). Because it is meat-based it is attractive to rats but is probably less likely to directly entice birds (or the insects some birds feed on) than a nut-based bait.
If you are still worried, you could consider disabling your traps during the day and re-setting them at night when birds are unlikely to be feeding, although that would be laborious.
If you ever find an injured bird you can take it to the experts at the BirdCare Aotearoa wild bird hospital in Green Bay, Auckland. They provide care and rehabilitation for sick injured and orphaned wild birds at no charge