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Protecting Your Berries from the Birds

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There are several humane ways to keep your berry crop safe from neighborhood birds. Here are a few of the best.

Flash Tape

Flash tape is basically what it sounds like: strips of Mylar or foil tape that flutter in the breeze, scaring the birds off. The birds don't like the shine of the tape, and anything that moves is good for keeping birds out of the area.

Pros: Foil tape is inexpensive, humane, and relatively unobtrusive.

Cons: If the birds are hungry enough, they'll risk going near the tape to get to a buffet of fresh berries.

CDs/Pie Plates on a String

The idea behind this method is the same as the Mylar flash tape: shiny, moving objects will frighten any hungry birds from the area. To use this method, simply tie some string through the hole in a CD (or make a hole in a pie plate and thread string through it) and hang it from a fence or post near your berries.

Pros: Movement and shine will frighten most birds off. This method also provides a great opportunity to recycle, since you can use old CDs and used aluminum pie plates.

Cons: This is almost anything but unobtrusive. And, as with the flash tape method, if birds are very hungry, this method won't deter them for long.

Netting

This is probably the most fool-proof method for keeping more of the berry harvest for yourself. By draping netting over your berry bushes and small fruit trees, you prevent birds from getting at the vast majority of the berries.

Pros: Birds can't get to most of the berries. Bird netting is fairly inexpensive.

Cons: Small birds may get inside the netting and get caught. Also, the berries on the outer edges of the plant will still be accessible to the birds, so you'll have to accept some losses.

Faux Owls or Scarecrows

The idea behind these is straightforward: birds see a predator (in this case an owl or a human) near the berries, and they won't go near them. To make this work, you need to move the scarecrow or owl to a new position in the area every few days. Even the birds will figure out eventually that the owl isn't moving.

Pros: Scarecrows can add a certain sense of whimsy to a garden, and do a decent job of scaring many birds off. If some part of the scarecrow moves, such as a tie that flutters in the breeze, it will work all the better.

Cons: Birds will realize that the owl or scarecrow isn't chasing them off, and will eventually risk a trip to your berry patch.

Birdbath

A common theory is that when birds raid your berry patch, they aren't hungry as much as they're thirsty. The high water content in berries makes them an ideal target for thirsty birds. By having a bird bath nearby, you give them what they really want, and they leave your berries alone. This will work even better if you can add the sound of water, through use of a dripper or fountain.

Pros: Bird baths will bring a wide variety of back yard birds to your yard, and many of these birds feast on insect pests.

Cons: If the birds really are just hungry, you've provided them with a full meal instead of just a drink.

Bird Feeders

The principle behind this idea is that if you give the birds their very own food, they'll leave yours alone. Place a feeder or two in close proximity to your berry patch, and the birds will go to the feeders instead of raiding your crop.

Pros: As with the bird bath idea, inviting birds to the garden can help you control insect pests.

Cons: If you aren't careful about keeping the feeders full once you've attracted hungry birds, they could very well notice the luscious berries nearby and have a feast.

Radio

Having a radio in your berry patch or near your grapevines will create enough noise to frighten hungry birds away.

Pros: Noise does frighten birds off.

Cons: Having a radio on all day can get annoying for both you and your neighbors. Also, once the birds get used to the noise, they won't be shy about investigating your garden.

Plant Enough for Everyone

Maybe the best solution is just to accept that you will have losses, and plant many more berry plants or grapevines than you actually need. The birds get their share, you get yours, and everyone's happy.

Pros: If you overplant, you're practically guaranteed to get at least some berries from your garden.

Cons: There's no guarantee that the birds won't just go ahead and devour everything before you get a chance to harvest your share.

No matter which method you use, you can be guaranteed a measure of success in protecting your berry or grape harvest. Maybe all you need is a small window of time for your berries to ripen. If that is the case, almost any of these methods will buy some time. The best long-term solution, by far, is to protect your berry bushes or grapevines with netting.

Backyard wildlife is one of the joys of gardening. Birds can help us by devouring pest insects and just generally adding beauty to the garden. By trying these simple, humane methods of protecting your berries, you can coexist peacefully with our feathered friends.

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