5 Ways to Keep Problematic Birds Out of Your Garden, According to Gardening Experts

Birds are both fun to watch and feed on problematic insects, but certain species are also known for eating vegetation and digging up soil.

Crow sitting in flower garden
Photo: Gerdzhikov / Getty Images

When you take a look at your garden, there's typically a few birds lurking nearby. In many ways, these creatures are a welcome addition to your outdoor space. "Besides being enjoyable to watch, they can also feed on unwanted insect pests," explains Kristen Pullen, a woody ornamental product manager and international business assistant for Star® Roses. But there are also a few downsides to allowing birds to soar freely in your yard: The avians snack on vegetation, dig holes in soil while hunting for worms and grubs, eat pollinators, and also leave droppings on garden structures. For those reasons, some gardeners prefer to keep birds away from their landscapes—and if you're one of them, you may be on the hunt for a solution that works for you. To help, we turned to two landscape experts who shared their best tips for keeping birds out of your garden.

Use butterfly netting in your garden

Putting up a physical barrier, like butterfly netting, is one effective way to keep birds away from your garden. To effectively install it, Pullen says to elevate the netting, rather than laying it directly onto your plants, to prevent the birds from landing on top and pecking straight through. "Fasten the netting to stakes or curved structures, like PVC pipe, to create a tunnel of netting over your plants. Be sure that all sides are covered," Pullen explains. When shopping for nets, look for something with holes less than 1 centimeter in diameter to avoid injuring the birds—and make sure the netting can be pulled taught. "It's also important to select a variety of netting that is UV resistant, so it doesn't break down from sun exposure. The UV-resistant varieties can then be stored and reused year to year," she says.

Put reflective items near plants

Besides physical structures, there are visual deterrents that Pullen notes are also quite effective in keeping birds away. "These are items with reflective surfaces that move in the wind to give the impression of a predator," she says. You can stick pinwheels in garden soil, or hang CDs in your trees, which Adrienne R. Roethling, the director of the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden, says she's seen gardeners do to keep the avians at bay. While it's not the most aesthetically-pleasing solution, Roethling notes that the movement and reflective lighting will "spook the birds."

Add (toy) predators to the mix

Beyond reflective items, there are other decoy predators you can implement in your garden to deter birds from pestering your plants. Popular options include plastic owls, snakes, and even scarecrows. If you go this route, however, be sure not to underestimate the intelligence of your local avians; they will realize that these items aren't real if they're not moved often. "Moving the predators around the yard [tricks birds into thinking] they are live and can pop up where least expected," says Roethling.

Install bird feeders in your yard

While it may seem counterintuitive to hang feeders to deter birds, they can be effective when placed far enough away from the varieties you need to protect. "Bird feeders are great," confirms Roethling, who also notes that you should look for options that encourage less obnoxious birds. If the goal is to bring in non-disruptive species, like purple martins, bluebirds, and nuthatches, you should provide a habitat that encourages them to visit your feeder. Roethling shares that this may also help keep mocking birds or mourning doves—the avian visitors you don't want—away.

Plant flowers that deter birds

Just as you can deter insects from devouring your garden by planting marigolds, you can use protective plants to keep certain birds from invading your landscape. For example, pigeons, which commonly eat plants in the cabbage family, do not like to cross through densely planted spaces. "You can plant a thick border of annual flowers around areas of your garden you'd like to protect, but coupling that with netting or a visual deterrent would ultimately provide the best protection," Pullen shares of taking a multi-pronged approach.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles