Why Those Fake Spider Webs Are a Bad Idea

Many small birds don't have the strength to break free from heavy webbing. val lawless/Shutterstock

What a tangled web we weave when we celebrate Halloween.

For birds, there may be no greater plague than those fake spider webs strewn willy-nilly outside homes.

Those spooky gooky strands gumming up the trees have long been the stuff of nightmares, not just for birds but any small animals not strong enough to break free from their grasp.

An Often Unaddressed but Important Issue

The issue seems to finally be getting some traction — especially after Kathryn Dudeck, wildlife director of the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Georgia, shared these grim images of a western screech owl caught in some fake webbing.

The pictures are from 2011, but in her Facebook post, Dudeck laments that we still run riot with the stuff, knowing the harm it causes.

"This is the time of year that rehabilitators receive numerous animals caught in these decorations, from songbirds to chipmunks and everything in between," she noted. "This is obviously not a new issue, but one I rarely see addressed."

Other Hazardous Obstacles

The webbing is just another hazardous obstacle for birds, especially during the migration period — which happens to be in full glorious flight right now. And those obstacles — from glue traps to brightly lit windows to garden netting — are really piling up.

"We get birds in every single year during migration that have flown in and gotten entangled in weird stuff," Chantal Theijn, wildlife rehabilitator at Hobbitstee Wildlife Refuge in Ontario, Canada, tells MNN. "It's hard for them to see something as fine as that spider web."

Golden-crowned kinglet in a ree
Weighing a fraction of an ounce, the golden-crowned kinglet is especially vulnerable to netting of any kind. kuysang cho/Shutterstock

For small birds, any kind of netting can be as sticky as concrete.

"I just had a golden-crowned kinglet come in yesterday that weighed in at a whole 5.9 grams," Theijn says. "So you can imagine how tiny these birds are; everything is an obstacle for them. At 5.9 grams, they don't have the strength to get themselves loose."

Theijn doesn't see fake spider webs and other Halloween decor as an epidemic, unlike the mass birds deaths caused by brightly lit and tall buildings.

But spider web deaths are so easily preventable.

"It's like fly traps," she adds. "We see birds stick in fly traps all the time. Farmers will use the really large glue traps in their barns to help control flies. I can't even tell you how many birds I've peeled off those fly glue traps."

The stuff of nightmares, indeed.