Birds – they’re wonderful to watch from your window, but they can cause a lot of damage to your garden if you don’t put the proper precautions in place to keep them off your prized crops and floral displays. Whether they want to snack on your fruit bushes or spy a juicy worm and trample your petunias in the process of getting it, our feathered friends’ innocent day-to-day activities might make garden maintenance a bit tiresome. That’s why many people invest in bird deterrents for gardens.
There are many ways you can keep birds out of the way or learn to co-exist with them without them causing any destruction so you can still enjoy viewing them and hearing their beautiful birdsong. See our top tips for bird deterrents below.
The damage that birds cause
If you’re a bird lover, you might not be bothered about the damage that they can cause, but they can be quite pesky for gardeners. In most cases, it is important to keep them around. They are pollinators, after all, and are a very important part of the food-chain as well as the overall ecosystem. Some of the damage birds can cause includes:
- Bird droppings – although birds help to disperse seeds through their droppings, they can be quite corrosive to certain materials if left without cleaning. They also don’t look very pleasant on your garden furniture and along your pathway.
- Nests – sometimes birds decide to nest in guttering, which van cause extensive damage as well as not being safe for them.
- Crops – we all know that seeds, peas, and berries aren’t safe from the beaks of hungry birds. If crops are left unprotected, they can be ravaged by birds in several minutes. In the UK, wood pigeons and collared doves are the prime suspects for crop damage.
- Disease – birds spread disease, mites, fleas, and lice very easily. Most of these aren’t hazardous to humans, but it’s important to keep this in mind.
How to keep birds out of your garden
You shouldn’t aim to scare birds away from your garden with harsh tactics as this would be cruel, but you can gently deter them from claiming your space as a hangout spot. So without further ado, here are the best bird deterrents for your garden.
1. Install fake predators
Like any other animal, birds have predators, and they are very keen to stay well away from them. If there is a cat or a larger bird prowling around your garden, smaller birds are unlikely to take their chances by hanging around and will fly away promptly.
Most garden centres will sell statues of predatory birds like hawks and owls, as well as cats. Putting one or two of these in clear view might be enough of a deterrent, but if your issue is with predatory birds, you should try another method.
2. Put netting over your crops
Birds love nothing more than tender, growing fruit, seedlings, and shoots. Get ahead of them by placing bird-proof netting all around your crops and flowers. If they can’t get to them in the first place, this more or less solves your issue. You can get netting in lots of sizes, and it is generally inexpensive. Inspect it carefully each week and before you put it away ready for the next growing season to ensure there are no big holes that birds and other pests can get through.
We found this great video that explains how to set up netting:
3. Plant white flowers
Did you know that white flowers can deter birds? Well, you do now! White is a ‘danger’ colour to birds, much in the same way that red is a warning colour to humans. Many birds use the white plumage in their feathers to show each other that there is danger ahead[i], so planting a variety of white flowers around areas you want to keep protected might be enough to deter birds from landing. Thankfully there are plenty of gorgeous white flower varieties that you can choose from, but these are our favourites:
- Shasta daisy
- White roses
- White petunia
- White hydrangea
Stick to planting colours in areas that don’t need bird protection.
4. Hang shiny object from trees and fences
Shiny objects might strike you as something that would attract animals (a rumour started by the humble magpies supposed attraction to shiny objects[ii]), but the opposite is true. When it is sunny, shiny objects reflect light towards birds which scare them away. Some theories also suggest that birds are scared of their own reflections!
This might not make the most attractive solution, but it is convenient, especially in allotments and around vegetable and flowerbeds. Hang CDs, tin cans, foil and small mirrors on trees and around protection areas. You can also buy ‘scare tape’ that produces the same effect. Be careful with mirrors on especially sunny days, as concentrated light in a dry garden could pose a fire risk.
5. Make some noise
Noise is one of the number one bird deterrents, but this doesn’t mean you should run into your garden banging your cooking pots together every time you spot a bird fluttering through your garden. You can buy specialist sonic pest repellers that are motion activated. These can also be heard by humans, so be sure you won’t cause more of a nuisance.
You could also try hanging wind chimes for a more pleasant deterrent, but birds will soon get used to this and ignore the racket.
6. Use bird spikes
Bird spikes are often used to keep larger birds away, especially in gardens where bird feeders are available for smaller, wild birds to visit. They don’t cause pain, but they do make it uncomfortable, or even impossible, to roost. You can get bird spike strips for an affordable price from most garden centres and you should place them wherever you see larger birds like pigeons perching
Keep in mind that these aren’t effective for keeping smaller birds like robins and finches away as they can sit between the spikes quite comfortably and may even use them as a base for their nests[iii].
7. Plant a protective barrier
If you want a solution that only protects a small piece of garden, you can try putting a protective barrier in place around the affected area (this is most effective in soil around flowers, growing vegetables, and fruit). Try placing pointy sticks in and amongst your plants to ensure there is nowhere comfortable for the birds to land to keep them away. This isn’t the most effective method but might help with newly planted crops.
Learn to live with garden birds
Although it can be hard to live alongside nature sometimes, you should make every effort to be accommodating and to live alongside the birds in your garden. Instead of scaring them away, use protective methods like covering crops up. You could even set up a dedicated bird feeding area on the other side of your garden, making an attractive space for them to flock and feed that isn’t your flower bed.
If you have any great bird deterrent tips, or tricks for how to keep birds out of your garden, please do let us know.
Ryan Jenkins is a professional gardener and has been working in the gardening industry for over 25 years. This has allowed Ryan to accumulate a vast wealth of gardening knowledge which he shares on the Sefton Meadows blog.