In this article, we address a topic that is highly relevant to gardeners, especially during the warmer periods of the year. The subject at hand is: how to keep birds away from the garden and orchard.
Birds are a very common problem, and it’s not just pigeons; there’s a whole list of other birds that frequently raid our gardens and orchards. Nonetheless, there are various solutions to keep these birds away while maintaining our gardens and orchards completely organic. Today, we present some of these solutions.
But first, let’s get acquainted with the main bird species that cause problems to our crops. This way, we can understand which deterrent is most suitable for solving the issue while always respecting wildlife and animal species.
Recognizing the birds that damage our crops
To understand how to keep birds away from the garden, we must first recognize the bird species present in the area. Only some of them represent a potential threat to the integrity of the crops.
Especially during the summer, when gardens, orchards, and vineyards are in full ripening, some bird species find abundant food and tasty fruits. Thus, it becomes necessary to organize and defend the garden from these attacks.
The pigeons and doves
In Italy, the best-known and widespread species of doves are:
The city dove (Columba livia), commonly known as the pigeon, and the wood pigeon (Columba palumbus).
Each one of us has dealt with these bird species at least once in our life. They live both in the countryside and in cities and are a nuisance well-known to those who have a garden on the balcony, as they are constantly searching for food. Even those without a garden but who simply want a clean balcony are faced with the problem of how to keep pigeons and doves away.
The Gray Crow and the Magpie
Let’s continue this overview by discussing two bird species belonging to the crow family: the Gray Crow (Corvus corone cornix) and the Magpie (Pica pica).
The Gray Crow is undoubtedly one of the most formidable species for crops, and this is due to several reasons.
It is a highly predatory species and feeds on everything, from fruits to insects to dead animal carcasses. Its spread has been favored by pollution and open-air dumps. It moves in flocks, even though it acts individually, making it very harmful to gardens and orchards. Another annoying problem it creates is related to the irrigation systems. When it notices a dripping hose, it goes to search for water and ends up destroying the hose.
The Magpie has characteristics similar to the crow, but it has a more solitary behavior, which makes it less numerous and potentially less damaging.
If you have chickens, be careful: the magpie loves eggs and is willing to challenge the entire chicken coop to get to them.
The Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is a small bird belonging to the passerine order and the starling family Sturnidae.
This bird, native to North Africa, is widespread in Italy, where it is considered a sedentary and migratory species. The starling moves and acts in flocks, which gives it a devastating potential on crops.
Its harmfulness is particularly evident in crops such as vineyards, olives, figs, medlars, and cherry trees. Due to its large numbers, it can also pose a threat to crops like corn and sunflowers, which typically extend over many hectares of land.
These are the main bird species that pose a real threat to our crops. There are many others, including blackbirds, turtle doves, and sparrows. The latter are particularly problematic for open-field wheat and sunflower crops. Now let’s try to understand how to biologically keep pigeons, crows, and other birds away from our garden using various known deterrent techniques.
Deterrence systems. How to biologically keep pigeons and other birds away
Now that we have a general overview, let’s see how to keep pigeons, doves, magpies, crows, starlings, and all other birds away from our crops. In other words, let’s explore the main deterrent systems to keep birds away from the garden and orchard. Naturally, not all of these remedies are the same, and some are more suitable than others, depending on the different species we have seen.
Even in ancient times, farmers wondered how to keep pigeons, sparrows, turtle doves, crows, and all other birds away from their gardens. Visual deterrence was their answer. It is, in fact, the oldest system to keep harmful birds away from crops. Birds, in general, have an innate fear of the unknown and of things that resemble danger. If they encounter a visual deterrent, they tend to stay away.
However, the inconvenience is that this system usually has a limited duration. Each method works until the bird stops perceiving it as a danger. Therefore, it is necessary to alternate different visual deterrents from time to time.
Let’s see what these visual deterrent systems are.
It is the most classic and ancient system of bird protection. Every open garden should have one, serving as a guardian of crops. Building a scarecrow at home is really simple; all you need are some old rags and a bit of imagination. We will dedicate an in-depth article to this topic in one of our next posts.
The Terrifying Balloons
These are inflatable balloons with designs that resemble predator eyes. They are like inflatable scarecrows and should be placed high above the crops to be protected or in close proximity.
They are provided in kits with bright colors, each different from the other. This way, they can be alternated periodically. Each color should be used individually for a maximum of three weeks. If you want to buy them, you can find them here.
Alternating the various colors allows for prolonged protection, even on large surfaces, such as a vineyard. These terrifying balloons are particularly effective against starlings and sparrows.
The Simulated Predator
In this case as well, it is a deterrent system aimed at scaring birds away. The goal is to simulate the presence of a predator. The figure of the owl is often used for this type of protective system, as it is a predator feared by crows, magpies, blackbirds, and other birds that act in a less gregarious and more solitary manner.
This type of system is advisable if you have a few trees or a small garden to protect. Naturally, like all visual deterrents, it is more effective when combined with other systems.
The simulated predator is ideal, for example, when positioned on a tree with ripe fruits that birds are fond of (e.g., a fig tree, a cherry tree, etc). If you are looking for it, you can buy it here.
Deterrents Using Sunlight Reflection
This type of deterrent is among the most commonly used to keep birds away from the garden. It is an inexpensive and artisanal technique. These systems take advantage of sunlight reflection to annoy and keep birds away. Let’s see what the most common ones are.
This is one of the simplest and do-it-yourself systems. It involves hanging an old CD-ROM with a reflective surface using a string. The CD-ROM should be positioned near the crops you want to protect.
However, with this system, particular attention should be paid during summer use. The reflected sunlight, if concentrated on dry areas (grass clippings or prunings), could cause fires. We want to know how to keep pigeons and other birds away from our garden, not how to set it on fire.
If you decide to use this technique, be very careful with the cleaning of dry and potentially flammable material.
The Reflective Tape
Another method that answers the question “how to keep pigeons and other birds away from the garden” is the reflective tape. These are long silver strips, available in white, red, or iridescent colors, with a width ranging from 3 to 6 cm.
The deterrent effect is also achieved through sunlight reflection and the noise generated by the tape when moved by the wind.
Reflective tapes can be used to protect a single tree, as seen in the photo below.
Another widely used application is to place them along the rows of grapevines due to their easy application.
In general, this product is more effective in keeping away birds that eat and move in large groups, such as starlings or pigeons, compared to birds that have a more solitary behavior. If this is the remedy for you, you can buy it here.
Colorful Rotating Strips
A variant of the reflective tape that provides an alternative on how to keep pigeons, pigeons, and other birds away from our crops is the colorful rotating strip, also with a reflective effect.
The peculiarity of these strips is that they rotate on themselves under the action of the wind, creating a sense of movement that puts the bird on alert and keeps it away from our area of interest.
They are easy to apply and can be positioned in multiple points in the garden and on trees. Of course, this method should be alternated with others. If you want to purchase them, you can find them here.
Among the answers to the question “How to keep pigeons and other birds away from the garden”, there are also mechanical protections. This category of systems involves the use of barriers that prevent birds from approaching the area we want to protect. Let’s see the most common types.
The protective net is usually positioned to defend one or more fruit trees. It prevents birds from coming into contact with the vegetation. It is a very effective system but has the limitation of the area it can cover. The protective net is suitable for one or a few trees or for small-sized gardens. It protects the cultivation from any bird species. Besides keeping birds away from the garden and orchard, it also provides protection against hail (a problem increasingly prevalent during summers due to frequent and severe hailstorms in recent years). However, for very large areas, it can be challenging to manage. Nevertheless, if you don’t need to defend an excessively vast area, you can You can purchase your nets here.
Mechanical Needle Deterrent
Let’s clarify immediately that this system absolutely does not involve piercing the bird with a metal needle. This is to avoid any misunderstandings. The question we want to answer is “how to keep pigeons (or other birds) away from our garden”, not “how to kill them”. The method of the mechanical needle deterrent simply makes it difficult for birds to find a suitable perch to rest. They will then seek alternative spots and move away.
This system is widespread in urban contexts for protecting gutters. It is suitable for those primarily wondering how to keep pigeons away from their balcony rather than the garden. If the mechanical needle deterrent is what you are looking for, you can You can find it here.
The last category of remedies for keeping pigeons, pigeons, crows, and all birds away from the garden and orchard is the sonic deterrents. This type of deterrent exploits the principle that animals, especially birds, are very sensitive to unfamiliar noises, which puts them on alert, making them prefer to go elsewhere. Let’s see the most effective sonic deterrents.
Propane Gas Detonator
Among the acoustic deterrents for birds, the most used in agriculture is the propane gas detonator. It consists of a combustion chamber where a predetermined amount of gas is released after being ignited by a candle.
The intense explosion immediately scares away birds, both those moving alone and those in flocks. It works well for all bird species.
The explosion can be regulated with a timer, so there is no need for the physical presence of an operator.
It is advisable to adjust the timing at intervals that are not too close together to avoid the habituation effect to the noise, but not too far apart to prevent damage to crops.
The propane gas detonator is mainly used preventively to protect vineyards and orchards. However, it is often disliked by neighbors due to the loud noise it produces. Therefore, it is better to use it if you are far from residential areas.
The device should be placed in an elevated position relative to the protected crops.
The last deterrent we present for keeping birds away from the garden is the one that uses ultrasonic waves.
Birds are bothered by sound waves adjustable to different frequencies, causing them to stay away from our crops.
To use them effectively, it is essential to understand the frequencies by conducting field tests. It is also advisable to move the device occasionally to achieve better coverage.
The advantage of this bird deterrent system is that it is non-invasive and does not disturb neighbors. The main disadvantage is that it is challenging to determine the frequency that genuinely bothers the birds you want to keep away. You can You can buy it here if you want to purchase this type of acoustic deterrent.
At this point, figuring out how to keep birds away from the garden should no longer be a problem. We are confident that among all the deterrent systems presented, you will find the one that best suits your needs. Of course, for greater effectiveness, it is advisable to use multiple methods in alternation. You can evaluate which of the methods presented are most suitable for your garden.
The best results are achieved by combining as many systems as possible. This way, birds will no longer approach either your garden or your orchard.
- Repelling Birds Using Monofilament Line from Montana State University: This resource discusses the use of monofilament line as a technique to repel birds. It works best on sparrows but fails to repel robins and starlings, at least in New Mexico and Nebraska studies.
- Nonlethal Bird Deterrent Strategies: Methods for reducing fruit… from Oregon State University: This resource discusses many bird deterrents that scare birds away with a perceived threat or by a visual disturbance. Birds are intelligent and may habituate to visual deterrents after a while.
- Protecting Berries from Birds – Clemson University : This resource provides various bird scare techniques to protect berries. A temporary PVC frame supports bird netting, keeping it off of the plants.
- Birds in Low Desert Gardens from University of Arizona: This resource suggests keeping birds away with loud noises, Mylar tape or pie tins blowing in the wind, and sprinklers with motion detectors. Covering plants with floating row covers or netting can also help.
- Controlling Birds Around Farm Buildings from Penn State Extension: This resource suggests excluding birds from roosting sites by covering the undersides of the rafters with netting. Plastic strips hung in the doorway will keep birds out.