While many birds (and us humans) need and love healthy and strong growing trees, many species also can find a variety of uses for dead trees, or “snags”. A snag is a dead or almost-dead tree that is still standing or leaning in the air perhaps on another tree and is often disregarded by many humans as wasteful. The fact of the matter is some estimates suggest that dead trees and materials account for up to one-fifth of the animals in that ecosystem!
As a backyard birder, these trees are easily transported and can be used effectively in your yard to not only attract more birds but keep them there. Snags often contain many cavities or are easily chipped away at and provide a great nesting site for many species of birds you might have in your area. While not every bird may opt to nest in a snag, they also provide a fantastic perch to be used for hunting or defending territory.
In addition to the above, existing snags are phenomenal food sources for birds, as they are often jam-packed with a variety of insects and can also provide small cavities for bird species that take part in caching activities like storing seed and nuts.
Snags for use near your home or in your backyard can be found in just about any forested area. Before you remove any trees or shrubbery from any property, we always recommend you have explicit consent from the owner of the property or the properly appointed governing body.
Once home, you will want to do your very best to make the snag a part of your property. Many folks will dig a hole to prop the snag up in the air slightly, but also allow it to be accessible by birds, mammals, and insects. Starting out a snag can take some time, some people have said they will smear peanut butter and/or place suet and seed close by to get their birds comfortable with it.
Over time, this should develop into a great home and food source for all of your backyard birds and might even provide you with a new photo opportunity!