When a few wild birds initially visit you on the porch, you may be delighted by their company and think that the question of how to keep birds off your porch could not be farther from your mind. But birds can, in fact, become a problem if their numbers surge and the frequency of their visits increases. While you may not be able to get enough of their songs and their antics, you may start getting quite irritated by the bird droppings that they leave behind. Not only are the droppings unsightly, but the work involved in cleaning them up can become tiresome. Even if you could live with the unsightliness of bird droppings, it would not be a good idea to let them stay there. The droppings contain an acid that can damage or stain the building materials used to construct porches, patios, and decks.
Fortunately, it is not difficult to keep birds off your porch. Here is what you need to know.
What Kinds of Birds Flock to Porches
Not all birds are problematic for porch owners. You generally have to worry only about the birds in your area that hang out regularly in flocks and do not mind being around humans (or may even seek out areas frequented by humans).
In addition to crows, you may find the following birds on your porch.
Although not a native bird (it was introduced from Europe), the rock pigeon (Columba livia) is one of the most recognizable birds of North America, where it can be found in all but the northerly reaches of Canada and Alaska. It is a portly bird, about a foot long, with a dark gray head that is small relative to its whole body. Its bill is thin and straight. It has a light gray back with two darker gray stripes (on the wings). It is most colorful on the neck, where the feathers are an iridescent mix of green, blue, or purple.
Even if you are aware of no other bird around you in North America, then at least you are aware of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus), an introduced (from the Old World) species whose range in Canada and the U.S. almost matches that of the pigeon's. It is a small bird (about 6 inches) with a stout bill. Males look quite a bit different from females. What you will probably notice first on a male is the chestnut patch that starts behind the eyes and runs down the back of the neck. He also has a gray crown and black bib. His cheeks and the front part of his neck are white. His underside is light gray, while his top (wings) is brown and black. The female shares only his light gray underside; the color extends to the front of her neck and to her throat. The top of her head is buff, and her back (wings) is a mix of buff and brown stripes.
A European native, the starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is now, like the pigeon and sparrow, almost ubiquitous in North America. With its short tail and wings, it is not the most graceful-looking of birds. It is 8 or 9 inches long. It is mainly brown or black, and speckled at times. But sometimes, in the right light, you can see it has iridescent purple tints on the head and chest and iridescent green tints on the wings. The yellow bill is long and slender.
Flocks of the common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) often accompany flocks of starlings in searching for bugs on a home's lawn. It has a lot of black and iridescence on it like the starling, but it can easily be distinguished from the latter by its darker bill, the yellow circle on the outer part of the eye (starling eyes are completely dark), and its long tail and is bigger (11 to 13 inches).
An attractive bird, the grackle has tints of blue and green on its head and neck, and purplish on its wings.
Although sometimes called "seagulls," not all gulls spend all of their time at the beach. So you may have gulls on your property even if you live inland. There are many kinds of gulls. For example, a gull commonly seen along the Atlantic coast in North America is the great black-backed gull (Larus marinus). It is a large bird (about 2 1/2 feet long) with black wings, a white head, and a white belly. Tail feathers are often a mix of black, gray, and white. Its large bill is a bold yellow, and it has webbed feet.
It can be a difficult decision whether or not to take action to keep birds away, because birds do bring some benefits to a yard. These benefits include:
- Pleasure: Birds bring pleasure to a yard, not only through their songs but, in some cases, their colorful feathers and/or striking forms.
- Natural pest control: Depending on the size of a wild bird, it may eat pests ranging in size from a mosquito to a mouse.
- Pollination: Along with butterflies, many birds aid with the pollination of garden plants. Hummingbirds and orioles are two noteworthy pollinators.
5 Ways to Keep Birds Off the Porch
Here are five common methods that are effective for keeping birds off the porch.
Use Sights, Sounds, and Smells To Repel Birds
Birds dislike shiny objects, especially if they are moving. You can buy such objects (pinwheels, for example), but it is cheaper to use something you have right in the kitchen: aluminum foil. Cut strips of it and hang them up around the porch. The breeze will blow them, which the birds find disorienting.
If you choose a sound-based repellent, try wind chimes. As a bonus, the music they bring sounds great.
Certain smells also act as bird repellents. For example, birds do not like citrusy smells. Spraying some lemon oil on your porch can keep birds away.
Scare Them Off With a Pet
Birds will generally stay away from a porch area where a dog or cat is present or nearby, especially if the pet is easily animated by wildlife. While it would not make sense to buy a pet for this specific reason, take advantage if you already have one. Make your porch area pet-friendly and give your canine or feline friend a lot of porch time.
You have probably seen those owl decoys on people's properties. They are cheaper than pets and definitely require less care. You may or may not find them decorative, but their main purpose is practical: They are deployed to scare birds and other pests away.
Baking soda is a product you probably have on hand that is effective in bird control. Spray a solution of it on areas of your porch where you know birds like to perch. They dislike the feel of the baking soda on their feet. To create a solution of baking soda and water, mix 5 spoonfuls of baking soda into a glass of water. Pour this solution into a bottle with a spray head and shake well before spraying on porch banisters, etc.
Motion-activated repellents are a great product for repelling a number of pests, including birds. Set one up on the lawn near your porch. When it detects motion, it shoots a spray of water or makes a noise that will scare the birds. Just be sure to locate a device with a sprinkler far enough away from the porch to avoid soaking the porch.
Signs of Birds on a Porch
Birds may shed some feathers to indicate that they were present, and they may even leave behind some partially digested food (especially berries). Your main clue, though, that wild birds are hanging out on your porch will be the poop they leave behind. This scat is liquidy (before it fully dries) and most often light in color.
What Causes Birds to Come to a Porch?
Birds occasionally choose to nest or roost on a porch. Whether they intend to nest there or not, birds may be coming to your porch to gather nesting materials. These can be either natural materials that have blown onto the porch or household/landscape materials that somehow end up there. For example, birds use twigs, dried grass blades, and dried tree leaves to build nests. But they will also make use of dryer lint and strings of frayed tarps.
Tree branches overhanging a porch can also attract birds to the area. So can tall shrubs around a porch. Birds love the cover provided by such things: They are less likely to hang out in areas where they are exposed and feel at risk for predator attacks.
Food and water draw birds. If you feed the birds and/or provide water for them in a birdbath, the source of your problem could be as simple as that you have located the feeder and/or birdbath close to the porch. Note also that hungry birds will be drawn to many different types of food, not just bird food.
How to Prevent Birds From Flocking to Your Porch
Removing what causes birds to flock to your porch is the logical step you can take to prevent it from happening:
- Sweep your porch frequently so that potential nesting materials are not present.
- If the branches of a big tree overhang your porch, hire a tree service to have them cut. If out-of-control shrubs are the issue, you should be able to do the pruning job yourself. Doing so will not only remove bird perches but also let more light hit the porch area and make birds feel less safe from predators.
- This may not be an alternative on small properties, but, on larger properties, locate feeders and birdbaths far from the porch rather than close to it.
Are high-frequency bird repellent devices effective?
Yes and no. These electronic devices either run on batteries or are plugged in. The high-pitched noise they emit drives birds away. Problem is, if you own cats, the noise can be intolerable to them, too.
Are birds smart enough to spot predator decoys as fake?
If the decoy is always in the same place, birds will eventually figure out something's amiss. But if you keep changing the location of the predator decoy, the birds will have to keep their guard up.