Birds are usually thought of as a gardener’s best friend, naturally predating on pests like caterpillars, aphids and slugs. But hungry birds can also ravage crops and destroy lawns. Here’s what to do when our feathered friends are making a nuisance of themselves.
Any bird becomes a garden pest when it damages and/or eats our crops. Blackbirds, starlings and thrushes will feed on ripening fruits. Jays will eat peas and beans. But of all the birds visiting our gardens and allotments, wood pigeons and collared doves cause the most damage to edible crops.
Tits and sparrows can cause damage to flowers. Tits looking for sweet nectar will peck rhododendrons, camellias and sweet peas, while sparrows will shred the blooms of crocus, violets and other spring flowers.
Seed-eaters, like sparrows, will raid newly sown lawns causing a lot of damage. And larger birds - magpies, blackbirds, crows and starlings, for instance - will dig around in lawns looking for soil-dwelling insects, like leatherjackets or chafer grubs, leaving holes and divots.
Birds can damage crops, flowers and lawns:
1: Damage to crops
Many birds species will peck at and eat fruits, and can completely strip smaller fruits and berries like plums, cherries and currants. Pigeons will remove leaves and buds from edible crops like brassicas, peas and beans.
If your crops are quickly decimated with no visible culprit - it’s likely to be a wood-pigeon attack. Pigeons feed in flocks and tend to come in the early morning when they’re unlikely to be disturbed. They feed all year round but the tender crops of late spring and early summer are particularly vulnerable.
2: Damage to flowers
If your flowers have been pecked or shredded, it’s possible that tits or sparrows are the culprits.
3: Damage to lawns
A newly sown lawn that’s been stripped of grass seed, has fallen prey to seed-eating birds like sparrows.
If your established lawn has round holes pecked in places, you’re likely to have a leatherjacket or chafer grub infestation. These insects are the favourite foods of larger birds like blackbirds, magpies, crows, rooks and starlings, which have pecked holes in your turf while digging them up.
There are several ways to limit the damage done by birds in your garden:
Looking to find out how to grow delicious berries? Find all you need at our raspberry hub page, with unusual variety recommendations and step-by-step growing guides.