Birds Eating My Flowers: Why Do Birds Eat Flower Buds

Birds Eating My Flowers: Why Do Birds Eat Flower Buds

By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

Gardeners are constantly worrying about protecting their plants from hungry deer, rabbits and insects. Sometimes our feathered friends can also eat flowers and flower buds from certain plants. Read more to learn why birds eat flower buds and tips on flower bud protection from birds.

Why Do Birds Eat Flower Buds?

Certain flower buds provide birds with nutrition in early spring when their preferred fruit and seeds are not available. The following blossoms provide energy for migrating cedar waxwings in the spring:

  • Pear
  • Apple
  • Peach
  • Plum
  • Cherry
  • Crabapple

Cardinals, finches, mockingbirds, blue jays, gold finches, grosbeaks, quail and grouse have also been known to feed on these fruit tree blossoms. Both finches and cardinals also seem to be quite fond of forsythia flowers. Although birds usually will not eat enough of the buds to damage the plant, there are a few simple ways to prevent birds from eating flower buds.

What to do When Birds are Eating My Flowers

Most garden centers carry netting to protect plants from birds. There are a few problems with this netting. If the netting is placed right on the plant, birds can still poke through and get some buds.

The best way to cover your plant with this netting is to use stakes or wood to support the netting up over and around the plant without it actually touching the plant. This may be difficult on the large shrubs and small trees that birds like to treat themselves to. Also, if the netting is not stretched tightly around the plant or supports, birds can get entangled in it. Fine mesh chicken wire can also be used to wrap around plants being eaten by birds.

Hanging pie tins in fruit trees is a traditional method of preventing birds from eating flower buds. The shiny surface, reflective light and movement of the pie tin twirling in the wind scares birds away. A modern twist on this old tradition is hanging old CDs from fruit trees. Anything that spins and sways in the breeze, scattering reflected light around, can protect flower buds from birds.

Birds also don’t like the noise from chimes hanging in the trees. Twinkling outdoor lights may deter birds, too. You can also create a bird friendly flower bed in a different part of the yard. Place bird baths and hang feeders to give the birds a better option than dining on your fruit tree buds.

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Believe it or not people still use scarecrows to “scare” birds out of the garden. I have an easy DIY scarecrow that I put out every autumn, and I’m going to put it in my garden. Get the instructions for building a DIY scarecrow here.

Birds shy away from people, so having a scarecrow in the garden will help detract the birds from the garden. Birds are pretty smart, though, so if you have birds that visit your garden every day they will notice that the scarecrow isn’t alive if you don’t move it around.

You should move your scarecrow around in the garden at least once a week, more often if you think of it.

How to Scare Away Birds That Eat Plants

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Many people enjoy the sights and sounds of birds, but if you're trying to grow plants, these fluttering creatures can be a nuisance. Although they eat garden pests, such as harmful insects, slugs and snails, they might carry diseases and parasites, and they can have an appetite for your crops and seeds. This can negatively affect soil conditions, your yield and the aesthetic value of your garden. To combat nuisance birds, combine several scare tactics to keep them away from your property.

Suspend twisted reflective tape over a row of bird-preferred plants to scare off the pests. When the wind moves the tape, its shimmer and shine scares away oncoming birds. Suspend the tape by drilling two stakes into the soil at the beginning and end of the row. Tie the tape to the stakes so it's 6 to 8 inches above the plants. Alternatively, suspend CDs that are attached to a piece of string above the row of plants for a similar effect.

Turn on a portable radio and place it near the plants in your garden. The noise from the radio will make the birds think twice about going near the plants. Alternatively, play a recording of bird distress calls, which tell oncoming birds that they're nearing danger.

Hang scary balloons around the plants that might fall victim to birds. Buy these balloons, which have a scary face painted on them, at your local garden center or make your own by drawing a menacing face on foil or metallic balloons and hanging them up around your crops.

Position a scarecrow between targeted plants or use a decoy of a hawk or owl to scare away birds.

How to Keep Birds From Pecking at Your Garden Plants

Birds can be beneficial in a garden because they eat unwanted insects, but they can also be destructive. Birds eat newly planted seeds before they have a chance to grow, and they peck at leaves and fruits or pull up small seedlings. Fortunately, birds are relatively easy to frighten, so it’s possible to deter birds humanely until your plants are well-established enough to live with them.

Start seeds indoors in pots whenever possible. Some seeds, like beans and pears, do better when sown directly into the garden, but giving your other seeds a chance to grow a few inches tall in a protected location will make them better able to stand up to bird attacks and give you more successful plants.

Consider covering large plantings with floating row covers. These thin cloth covers protect seeds and seedlings from birds while warming the soil and letting light through. Leave the covers on until the seedlings are 3 or 4 inches tall.

  • Birds can be beneficial in a garden because they eat unwanted insects, but they can also be destructive.
  • Fortunately, birds are relatively easy to frighten, so it’s possible to deter birds humanely until your plants are well-established enough to live with them.

Scare the birds with shiny things. Old CDs or broken mirrors hung from trees make birds nervous because they flicker and throw unexpected shadows. For potted plants, make small flags by taping strips of tinfoil to toothpicks and placing the toothpicks in the soil. When the tinfoil moves in the wind, it will frighten the birds.

Set up some Mylar flash tape to keep birds out of your strawberry plants. Place the tape along the edge of the row and secure it with stakes. Make sure the tape doesn’t break, and replace it regularly as the shiny surface fades.

  • Scare the birds with shiny things.
  • Old CDs or broken mirrors hung from trees make birds nervous because they flicker and throw unexpected shadows.

Protect berry bushes by covering them with bird netting. Make sure the stakes are taller than the bushes so the birds can’t sit on the net and reach the fruit.

Try some commercial bird deterrents. These include decoy predators like snakes and owls, or electronic noisemakers that click or make hawk noises. For these to be most effective, try a few different ones and move them around at random intervals, or the birds will just get used to them and ignore them.

It might be tempting to use your cat or dog to chase away birds, but these pets can damage the garden. Their feces in the soil can bring dangerous bacteria to your vegetables, and they can trample seedlings. Additionally, housecats are responsible for killing millions of songbirds a year.

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What is Hydroponics? | The Basics.

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Reasons to Use Row Covers

The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans.

Sowing Seeds in the Vegetable.

10 Ways You Can Help Pollinators.

If you can afford it, you can make use of these technologically enhanced products to protect your precious garden from those pesky birds. They won't stand a chance! Below are some devices you can use:

  • Visual scare devices only do so much. The problem is that eventually, birds can get used to anything that doesn't change or move. To make these tactics effective for a longer period, you have to move things around. Use more than just one of the suggestions, and rotate every two days, if you can.

Issue: March 16, 2002

Last year the birds ate every blossom on our pear tree. The blossoms are ready to burst into bloom. What can I do to save them this year? David G.

It is frustrating when birds damage the fruit on our trees, but especially frustrating when they eat the flowers long before they become fruit. However, the same tactics used to protect fruit may be employed to protect the flowers. The degree of success is often variable - sometimes good, sometimes a failure. One of the most common techniques for protecting fruit (and flowers) is to use netting to keep the birds away. Of course, the birds will reach through the netting and eat some flowers, but flowers further in the tree should be protected. When using netting, it is important to extend the netting to the ground and anchor it well or tie it loosely around the trunk. If there are gaps, the birds will often get in and once trapped inside, they will do even greater damage. Another, sometimes successful, strategy is the use of "fright." Many types of birds are easily startled and avoid places and conditions which are startling. That is the reason for the old "pie pan" technique. Aluminum pie pans tied to branches in the tree will twist and swing in the breeze. As they move, they will flash light in different directions. Flashing light will often discourage birds from approaching. At night this is less effective, but most birds are less active at night. The sound made by aluminum pie pans as they swing around and bump into branches is also a deterrent to birds. Unfortunately, it may be a deterrent to your peaceful sleep at night. If so, a similar technique involves wrapping the tree with monofilament fishing line in the same manner that you would wrap strands of garland around a Christmas tree. The line should be strung in bands about a foot apart. As a bird flies toward a tree, it enters a zone in which the monofilament line has reflected or refracted light, then passing through that zone the light disappears. To the birds it seems like there has been a flash of light in the tree. Many birds will turn away at that time. Another variation is to hang one-to-two-inch strips of aluminum foil from the branches. The foil will not make as much noise as the pie pans but will spin and swing in the wind, creating flashes of light. The strips of foil are easier for you to see and remove at a later date than the fishing line. Please remember that the birds are generally beneficial, just a nuisance when competing with us for fruit (in the flower or fruit stage). It is illegal to harm many song birds which may be the culprits so use discouragement techniques, don't harm the birds. You might also try creating a diversion by putting water and birdseed in another part of the landscape to attract the birds away from the pear tree. Of course, that may just invite even more birds into the vicinity of the pear tree and can work against you. Try it, however it may be enough to reduce the damage to a tolerable level.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: [email protected], office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at [email protected], or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!

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