How to protect your fruit crops from birds

Ripe raspberries are irresistible to humans and wildlife alike.

Ripe raspberries are irresistible to humans and wildlife alike.

Fresh tree-ripened fruit is delicious - and the birds know it as well as we do. 

Here's how to beat them to your harvest.

1. Bird netting
Cover rows of berries with rolls of netting draped over hoops before your fruit shows any hint of ripening, or the birds will beat you to every berry. Pack it away again in autumn – letting the birds back in to eat any leftover fruit and bugs and slugs. 

Ripening raspberries protected behind bird netting.
SHERYN CLOTHIER

Ripening raspberries protected behind bird netting.

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The mosquito nets sold to drape above a bed are another way to protect crops from birds. They cover a small tree nicely and supply an opening for access. Clothes pegs can be used around the base to make them fully bird-proof but just leaving them draped is enough to protect most crops.  

The framework of this tree cage keeps the ripening fruit out of range of hungry birds.
SHERYN CLOTHIER

The framework of this tree cage keeps the ripening fruit out of range of hungry birds.

Keep the netting away from the tree if you can or birds will eat the fruit through the net. 

2. Fruit cages
For a more permanent solution plant particularly vulnerable crops like blueberries, raspberries and cherries inside fruit cages. They are very effective but can be costly and high maintenance.

A design that can be opened to allow off-season access for birds to clean up pests is an advantage.

A purpose-built berry house is a dream for many gardeners.
SHERYN CLOTHIER

A purpose-built berry house is a dream for many gardeners.

 

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3. Plastic bags
Ripe figs are targeted by silvereyes and wasps. Cut the corners off sealable bags (for air flow) and fix them over nearly mature fruit. This not only keeps the birds off but helps them ripen. Pick when they're ready then move the bag on. 

For larger fruit use a shopping bag. Simply knot the handles over a cluster of fruit or randomly throughout the tree. The flapping deters the birds.

A ziplock bag makes a mini glasshouse to protect a fig while it ripens.
SHERYN CLOTHIER

A ziplock bag makes a mini glasshouse to protect a fig while it ripens.

 

4. Bird scarers
There are a huge range of bird scarers, nets, water cannons and even poisons for sale.

Home-made spinning CDs, webs of nylon line and other elaborate devices all work – for a while. But hunger makes birds brave, and eventually they get past their fear.

Flapping plastic bags  deter foraging birds.
SHERYN CLOTHIER

Flapping plastic bags deter foraging birds.

 

5. Decoy crops
It's worth planting enough fruit trees to share as birds add life and movement to our gardens and play an important role as pest controllers and pollinators.

Plant alternative fruit and berries that attract birds away from the crops you are keen to harvest for yourself. Mulberries, capulin cherries, American cranberries (Viburnum trilobum), elderberries and hackberries are decoy crops that birds find a tastier alternative to plums, peaches, apples and pears.

A harrier hawk bird scarer flying over an orchard.
SHERYN CLOTHIER

A harrier hawk bird scarer flying over an orchard.

Fruit above picking height on large trees can be left for the birds. Commercial growers use this strategy too – simply by planting an extra ring of their crop (in this case blueberries) around the perimeter and leaving those for the birds. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 - NZ Gardener

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