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Make Sure Your Holiday Decor Is Bird-Safe

Photo by Dave Stapp, Marin Humane Society

Whether it’s ghosts for Halloween or lights for Christmas, the holidays are a time when people decorate their houses with themed ornaments to instill joy in others.

Unfortunately, sometimes there are hidden victims of these decorations you might not have thought of: birds. This should not be interpreted as an alarmist post, but sometimes holiday decorations can cause harm to birds.

It’s unclear what sort of effect the light pollution from Christmas lights has on birds, but there is one decoration from Halloween that’s already trapped a few birds this year: fake spider webs.

Usually made from cotton all tangled together, fake spider webs occasionally mimic real spider webs and ensnare unexpected wildlife. While hummingbirds are usually the only birds that get caught in real spider webs, the large fake webs catch all types of bird, including owls.

Yesterday, the Golden Gate Audubon posted the image above on its Facebook page. The poor Screech Owl is completely tangled upside down in the web. Here’s more from the WildCare Bay Area site:

For this Western Screech Owl, the Halloween decorations on a Novato home weren’t just scary, they were life-threatening!

The Marin Humane Society responded to a call from homeowners saying that their artificial spider web had ensnared an accidental victim.

“He was hanging upside down right outside the front door,” the homeowner said. “When we opened the door he just hung there and blinked at us!”

Upon arrival at the home, the MHS officer gently snipped away the fibers that tied the little owl to the porch, and brought him, panting with stress and still ensnared in web, to WildCare.

Luckily, this owl only suffered for a little while and was ultimately released the next day after tests revealed it had no injuries.

The Chicago Bird Collisions Monitor also pointed out on its website that birds get tangled in Halloween spider webs and even loose holiday lights.

While you should definitely not let this sad news deter you from enjoying the holidays and decorating your yard, this should encourage you to be wildlife conscious when putting up decorations. A good rule of thumb is that if you think a bird can become tangled or trapped in something, don’t put it up. For more tips on making sure you have wildlife-friendly Halloween decorations, read the hints on WildCare’s website.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.


  1. I like to use natural elements. Home grown cedar boughs, pumpkins, gourds etc. And we need to question where all that stuff from China eventually ends up, right?

  2. Light pollution also affects moths, as they waste energy fliiting around the lights instead of looking for nectar!

  3. It’s unclear what sort of effect the light pollution from Christmas lights has on birds. LIGHT POLLUTION can disorient birds, disrupts normal patterns and can even effect mating rituals. Maybe it’s time to rethink all the lighting that is put outside. There’s already enough light pollution from commercial businesses. Won’t hurt the wallet to leave outside lighting off the ‘holiday festivities’ either. A lit tree in the house is good enough. No need for outdoor flashy or tacky lights plastered on anything that doesn’t move.

    I will save my dollars for presents and charity.

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