Controlling Birds in Vegetable Gardens

Only a few bird species are pests of vegetable gardens. Most birds either have no effect or help gardeners by eating the insects that prey on vegetables. But these few—blackbirds, starlings and robins among them—can cause considerable damage in a short time. Birds pull up seedlings to get the seed underneath, peck holes in fruit, and tear tender leaves.

Barriers are the first line of defense against birds. Use floating row cover or netting to keep the birds away from their favorite foods. Keep the material tight against the ground; birds will find and enter any gaps. Protect foods they particularly like with a wooden frame covered with bird netting. Hinge the top of the frame for easy access. For more information see Row Covers.

Bird scare devices are commonly available, from inflatable owls and snakes to balloons with large eyes painted on them. Most work for a while, but birds are intelligent enough to discover the scare device is harmless after a time. To keep it effective, move it about in the garden, and change frequently from one scare device to another. Even so, if your neighbor has had an inflatable owl in his garden all summer, the birds may not be frightened by yours.

Things that flash and move, such as pieces of shiny mylar or aluminum foil strips, are also a deterrent for a while. As with other scare devices, however, the birds can become accustomed to them.