Bird Control in the Yard and Garden

Preventing the Birds from Eating All Your Fruits and Berries

Great Tit (Parus major)
Anna Yu/Photodisc/Getty Images

Every season as my berries ripen, I battle it out with the birds to see who will get to them first. I don’t mind sharing, but it seems they do. Getting to the tree first isn’t really the problem; it’s keeping the fruit on the plants long enough for them to ripen to my taste. Birds, like squirrels, will strip a bush or tree clean just before the berries are at their peak.

I asked Tom Starling, of Bird-X (as in Bird Control "X-Perts"), what my options were - other than vigilant watching and acting as my own sound deterrent. Bird-X strives for “non-lethal, non-harmful, environmentally safe and ecologically sound control solutions, so I felt comfortable taking Tom’s advice. Luckily, he offered several choices to choose from, in case one method doesn’t work.

Bird Control in the Yard and Garden

Millions of homes and properties in the United States are plagued by a bird problem, and there are dozens of varieties of bird control on the market. It can be hard to figure out which is right for you and your needs, and each type has its pros and cons. Most humane bird control can be divided into several categories: visual scares, taste aversions, roost inhibitors, sonic repellers and ultrasonic disrupters.

Visual Bird Deterrents

Visual scare devices are things like plastic owls and coyotes, TerrorEyes balloons, and shiny tape. Anything that is supposed to irritate or make the birds feel unsafe by appealing to their visual sense is classified as a visual scare. The good things about visual scares are that they cover a large area and are usually a one-time buy. The downside is that they require a level of maintenance, depending on what you have bought. If the scare moves of its own accord, like the TerrorEyes balloon (the holographic eyes appear to follow birds wherever they go), it does not need to be moved as much. However, a plastic owl, which does not move, needs to be replaced around the garden or property every couple days to remain effective. Old CDs also make a good visual deterrent. Tie them from a branch and they will twirl and glint in the sun.

Taste Aversions for Birds

Taste aversions are any chemical, spray, or compound that is applied to anything to make it taste or smell bad to birds. Some are targeted to specific species, like GooseChase, while others are used for a specific purpose, like FruitShield. Most are made from a compound called methyl anthranilate, which comes from grapes and is used as a flavoring. Watch out for some that do not use this compound, make sure that the chemical you are applying is safe for humans and birds. The upside of a taste aversion is it gives very specific protection and is very effective at protecting crops, fruits, or grass. The downside is that it requires re-application every so often, less often if the spray is micro-encapsulated so it releases over time.

Bird Deterrent Barriers

Roost inhibitors include spikes, chemical barriers, and netting. These are perhaps the most commonly used methods of bird control and are very effective at keeping birds off of ledges, beams, and other outcroppings. Spikes and netting are both an effectively permanent solution but can change the look of your home or property. Chemical barriers like BirdProof cause the ledge to feel sticky, which birds hate. This is invisible, but it requires re-application every year or so.

Sound Repellers for Birds

Sonic and ultrasonic repellers are any number of sound systems that emit the distress calls of the targeted species, predator calls, other loud noises, or ultrasonic pulses. Sonic repellers are extremely effective if they randomize pitch, frequency, timing and other factors. Some sonic repellers, like noise cannons, lose their efficacy as birds realize there is nothing to be worried about. More sophisticated systems that employ natural calls are permanently effective and cover a large area. Ultrasonic systems emit pulses that bother the birds, but humans cannot hear. They are very similar to sonic systems, only different in the fact that most humans are unaware of their emissions. Sonic and ultrasonic systems are easy to install and are not visually prohibitive. Unfortunately, these are generally the more expensive products in a humane bird control line.

Every family of bird control products is effective in its own way, and there is a product for every person, budget, and situation.