Snakes play an important role in nearly every ecosystem. Aside from keeping the population of pest animals (like rodents) under control, snakes are also a signal that the ecosystem is healthy. This doesn't necessarily mean that people want to live in close quarters with snakes, however. Often conflicts can arise, such as when snakes that eat eggs inhabit the same area as birdhouses and nests. Though the knee-jerk reaction for many people is to exterminate the offending snakes, there are better alternatives.
Mount birdhouses and nesting boxes on a metal pole instead of on a tree. Tree limbs above bird nests allow snakes to drop or climb down directly onto the nest, making predation easier. An 8-foot length of three-quarter-inch electrical conduit pipe makes an effective mount.
Install a predator guard (also known as a cone guard or baffle) to the pole, underneath the nesting box or birdhouse. Predator guards are sold at many hardware stores, garden centers and bird-specific stores. Many come preassembled and include instructions for installation. As an alternative, consider mounting a 24-inch piece of hardware cloth directly below the nest box.
Make the area around the bird nests unattractive to snakes by eliminating areas of brushy or weedy growth, debris and anything else a snake could use for cover.
Move compost heaps, stacks of firewood and rock piles far away from areas with bird nests. Not only do these items provide shelter and nesting areas for snakes, but they also house rodentsâ€”a main food source for snakes.
Remove snakes if you feel comfortable doing so. If you see a snake near the bird nest, simply sweep it into a tall, smooth bucket and release it far from the nest.