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Protecting Blueberries from Birds
Birds are delightful creatures. They sing, tend to their little ones, and flutter around…. until they get into your berry bushes. Then it’s war!
We have five thriving blueberry bushes in our backyard, and one that’s doing its best but keeps getting involved in mishaps. (Once someone tripped over it, another time it was flattened by a runaway sap tank, and on yet another occasion it was cut down by the lawnmower. Accidentally.) We also have a number of raspberry and wild blackberry bushes scattered around.
Unfortunately, little birdies like to come and snatch the ripening berries whenever we turn our backs. Already this year our blueberry crop has been devastated by a turkey family and a gang of European Starlings. We put netting around them every year, but the bushes have outgrown our very old and badly frayed nets.
So how can we stop them? Thankfully, there are a few methods for protecting blueberries from birds. These tips all work well for other berries, like blackberries and raspberries, as well!
Birds, flighty things that they are, are easily put off by strange items. If you want to keep the berry patch looking trim, you can buy cheap shiny pinwheels and other flashy decorative items to place in and around the bushes.
If you don’t mind a little work, you can also create your own! Cut pieces of tin foil or shiny trash, and hang them around the berries. If you have leftover tins from graham cracker crusts, they can be especially effective when strung near something they will bang against.
Whatever you use, only display them during the picking season, or birds will get used to them. It may also help to move the sparkly stuff around from time to time.
Turning your backyard into a disco may also be effective, but we haven’t gone that far yet.
Like most of us, birds don’t want to hang out near things that might eat them. Adding some fake predators near your bushes during the picking season can go a long way to keep birds out, especially if they’re moved frequently.
Naturally colored snakes and owls are always good options, as long as you don’t accidentally scare yourself or a family member with them.
You can also try making a scarecrow, the original anti-bird device! Results are often mixed when it comes scarecrows, but at the very least you can have fun making it.
And of course, a real predator or two doesn’t hurt. You can encourage hawks and other predators to your berry patch. If you’ve got a pond or stream with fish on your property, eagles may be lurking nearby already.
If you have an outdoor or indoor/outdoor cat, you can always have it patrol the area from time to time, provided you won’t be traumatized by the results.
Make Some Noise
Similar to the last two, birds can be frightened off by loud noises. A string of strange sounds at odd intervals can keep them on their toes and out of your berries.
They tend to dislike anything loud and unexpected. The cheapest method is to watch out your window and go yell at them when they try to land, but that’s not exactly ideal.
You can also hang loud chimes or other items that bang around in the wind.
If you want to go above and beyond, you can get bird repelling animatronics. I’d be scared, too.
Spray the Plants
Did you know birds don’t like grape kool-aid? Mixing four packets with a gallon of water and spraying it on the ripening berries can keep birds at bay.
The kool-aid contains a substance that tastes bad to birds, but doesn’t hurt them. Of course, they sometimes have to eat a few berries to realize they don’t like the taste.
Unfortunately, this method requires frequent resprays after heavy dews and rain, and it’s not very cost (or time) effective if you have large bushes. Which leads us to…
This is the most expensive option, but it tends to be the most effective at protecting blueberries from birds. There are many different ways to arrange the netting for your berries depending on their variety and shape (netting a leafy 6 foot bush is very different from a sparser 1 or 2 foot one). Research your options based on berry type and bush size for best results.
No matter how you choose to net them, make sure there’s a tight weave on the netting, so the birds can’t get through. Use poles or sticks to prop the netting up several inches away from the berries. Without space, the birds can peck through the netting and ruin the berries.
Here’s a good all-purpose netting, similar to what we use on our bushes.
You’ll need to keep an eye out for any trapped visitors. We’ve had butterflies get caught in the folds of the netting on several occasions. Snakes and even the birds themselves can get tangled up as well.
Try one, two, or all of these ideas, and your feathered “frenemies” will begin looking for food elsewhere.
What methods have worked well for you? Leave them in the comments!
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