by Alex A. Kecskes

As a homeowner, you know that pest birds can cause considerable damage to your garden. Fruits are especially vulnerable and can be quickly ruined by even a few birds.

Today, 95 percent of all American gardens grow tomatoes. One woman in North Texas suffered extensive damage to her tomato plants by mockingbirds. As soon as her tomatoes got red, ripe and ready to pick, the birds would take bites out of them. They would continue to nibble on her tomatoes all day long. A great-looking tomato, almost ready to pick in the morning, would be ruined with bite marks by late afternoon. Effective pest bird deterrents would have saved her tomatoes.

A sure sign that birds are attacking your fruit is the presence of holes throughout. Starlings and blackbirds can eat the fruits and vegetables you worked so hard to grow. Canada geese will munch on your grass and leave nearly a pound a day (per goose) of droppings. Birds can also damage your favorite trees. They’ll rip through bark searching for bugs. Few plants are safe from pest birds. They’ll use their beaks to rip, tear and tug your plants pieces.

The temptation is to resort to lethal bird control measures—like BB guns and poisons (avicides). But if you have pets or children, these methods are highly undesirable as well as being inhumane to birds. Fortunately, there are a number of bird deterrents on the market that are both effective and humane. They’re ideal for keeping pest birds out of your garden.  Here are three proven bird control measures:

Lightweight Plastic Bird Netting

Plastic bird netting lets you exclude pest birds from garden, enclosed courtyard, patio or similar area. The netting comes in various mesh sizes to block out pigeons, sparrows, starlings, seagulls and other birds. The best high quality bird netting is available in various colors to blend in with your garden’s décor. One manufacturer offers a bird netting kit for fast, easy installation. The kits include perimeter cable, cable crimps, turnbuckles, intermediate attachments, hog rings, and accessories and tools.

Sonic Deterrents

These devices generate distress and predator calls that make birds too scared to hang around and feed. One commercially available system can generate such calls for 22 different species of birds. The calls, repeated every 10 minutes, resemble natural birdcalls to humans and won’t irritate pets. You can set a volume control to generate from 65-105 decibels, and you can program the unit to turn on or off at night. The best bird sonic units come with a built-in speaker that protects gardens up to an acre.

Bird Scare Deterrents

These inexpensive bird deterrents create an “Optical Distraction Zone” that makes pest birds too nervous to hang around your garden. They consist of reflective foils, shiny tape banners and balloons that are easy to install. Some balloons have giant predator eyes to give birds that “spied on” feeling. Balloons can also be filled partially with water to skim the surface of swimming pools, spas and Koi ponds.

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