are birds eating my strawberries

Birds like to feed on strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and whatever other edible fruits you might be growing. These garden and orchard fruits are as tasty and nutritious to birds (and many other creatures) as they are to us.

In rural areas and in commercial orchards or fruit farms, there are sometimes lethal methods taken to protect fruit crops from invaders from the sky. But few urban or suburban gardeners want to plink songbirds with a BB gun, even if it is legal. And before taking any measures at all to chase birds away, you should consider the fact that those birds may be present to eat insects that are damaging your berries. The same measures you use to keep birds away from the berries is also keeping them from eating insects that might be the more serious enemies.

The mere presence of birds in the area does not mean those birds are actively eating berries. Before taking counter-measures, make sure you are actually witnessing the birds eating your fruit.

How to Deter Slugs and Snails

are birds eating my strawberries

Slugs and snails also feed on flowers and fruit. They have to be controlled to preserve the crop.

Slugs are snails without shells. Strawberries are a favorite food of both slugs and snails, particularly in regions that are somewhat damp and cool, like New England and the Pacific Northwest. Here are some simple methods of slug and snail control.

  • Only when decomposing plant matter is unavailable do snails consume healthy plant material. Ensure that any overripe strawberries are removed before slugs and snails discover them.
  • A slug can be killed by adding salt, but salt is also bad for strawberries.
  • You can provide slugs with an edible hotel. Lay out large cabbage leaves or grapefruit peels on the ground for slugs to eat. After the slugs have finished, gather the peel or leaves and dispose of both in the trash.
  • Snails survive hot spells by climbing tall plants. To prevent weeds from providing cover close to your strawberry plants, make sure to remove any that are growing nearby.
  • Before dusk, mist plants with a solution of diluted thyme essential oil in water (roughly 50 parts water to 1 part essential oil) to deter slugs and snails from devouring them.
  • Hand-pick slugs and snails and get rid of them from your property. Although you will need to work at night with a flashlight, this is an extremely efficient method that costs nothing and doesn’t require any poisons.
  • To keep slugs and snails out of your strawberry bed, install a barrier like Snail-Gard. To prevent slugs and snails from digging beneath it, the vertical copper barrier must be at least 4 inches (10 cm) tall, with half of its height below ground. For several years, a copper barrier will keep slugs and snails out of your strawberry bed.

Slugs and snails can be killed with the popular insecticide metaldehyde, which is sold as blue pellets. The product’s drawback is that it repels people in addition to snails and slugs. It has to be scattered around to be effective. It is not sufficient to simply scatter blue pellets around the periphery of your strawberry patch and hope for the best.

How to Keep Birds Away from Your Strawberries

Strawberries are a staple food for many bird species, though some are pickier eaters than others.

Although they like larger fruit, like apples, crows will also nibble on strawberries. Crows seldom eat a whole berry. They nibble on a strawberry just once, leaving the remainder for rodents and insects.

Grackles may just chop larger berries, but they will consume small strawberries whole.

The holes that house finches and house sparrows peck in strawberries make the fruit vulnerable to deterioration.

Robins eat strawberries whole. They can seriously harm even a little strawberry bed.

Strawberry beds in home gardens can sustain significant damage from starlings. They descend in flocks and eat everything they can find. They peck out the insides of larger strawberries and consume smaller fruit whole.

While strawberries can be eaten by birds anywhere they are planted, urban gardens are more vulnerable to damage than farms. A home gardener’s strawberry bed is more vulnerable to bird damage than a farmer’s strawberry field.

For strawberries grown commercially, bird damage is usually insignificant. A group of scientists at the University of California at Davis, the University of Kentucky, and the University of California at Berkeley did a controlled study of bird damage to commercial strawberry fields. They found that birds typically ate about 3 to 4 percent of a strawberry crop and that fecal contamination from birds only affected about 0.01 percent of the crop.

A commercial field’s interior was home to birds that consumed more insects than strawberries. The presence of birds is a net positive in the strawberry field’s perimeter. The only areas of a farmer’s strawberry field where bird damage exceeds bird benefits are the borders.

Home gardeners experience a different story. Birds can ruin a home gardener’s entire crop. However, there are steps that both commercial growers and backyard gardeners can take to minimize bird damage.

Using a bird-resistant cloth to shield the strawberries in home strawberry beds is the answer. Purchase some 1 x 1 (25 mm x 25 mm) wooden decking pieces from your local lumber yard or home improvement store. Build a table-like structure out of the decking pieces that is both tall and wide enough to fit your tallest plants and long enough to cover your entire strawberry bed. Create a “table” rather than a “box” so that they won’t be crushed by a lower edge. Cover the box with tack mesh cloth on five sides, leaving the bottom exposed. To harvest, simply place the box over your strawberries and raise it.

When your strawberries don’t ripen, you can use this structure to shield other plants.

There are two strategies for keeping birds out of your strawberry field if you are growing strawberries for a living:

  • Have all of your strawberries in a single, continuous field. Your plants in the middle of the field will be better protected the larger it is.
  • Remove bird habitat around your strawberry field. Keep shrubs, birdhouses, and bushes away from your strawberry plants.

Before you declare war on birds that eat your strawberries, give it some thought. Many towns and cities are bird sanctuaries. It is always illegal to kill birds in these locations. Poisons don’t discriminate between species. If you release poison for a species, like grackles, that is legal to kill, but a protected species consumes the bait and perishes, you might be charged with a state or federal offense. You might need to apply for a Migratory Bird Depredation Permit, which is available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, even if birds are swooping down and swarming your crop. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will use deadly techniques to care for a large number of birds.

On commercial fields, non-toxic, non-lethal methods work better for bird control. There are two major types:

  • Visual scare devices. These consist of streamers, aluminum pie pans, plastic snake and owl models, scare-eyes (balloons painted with eyes), and spinners. Visual deterrents can cause birds to become accustomed to them, so it’s important to use different kinds and colors in different places to prevent this from happening.
  • Noisemakers. Noisemakers for bird deterrence include sirens, cannons, and exploders. Noisemakers work best when they are applied at irregular intervals. Birds will get used to noisemakers if you use them every day at the same time. Bird distress call recordings work better than noise generators of any kind, but you need to get recordings of the particular species of birds that are causing problems. Birds will grow acclimated to noisemakers if you use them too often.

Another method to fool the birds is to paint rocks in the shape of strawberries and scatter them evenly among your strawberry plants. The vivid red will draw local bird thieves to the area in search of some free food. Thankfully, a few pecks will expose the trick and thwart the birds’ intentions.

Not wishing to be duped continuously, they will soon learn that the “strawberries” that their brain says should be delicious are actually quite inedible. Once the lesson has been learned, they will leave your strawberry bed alone. As long as the strawberry rocks are painted well in advance of the time your plants actually start setting their real fruits and aren’t obscured by your growing strawberry plants, the birds will remember your first trick and fall hook-line-and-sinker for your second by leaving the fresh fruit alone and in full view! A step-by-step tutorial has been created by Lee Wismer. It can be accessed here: Strawberry Rocks Tutorial. When cabin fever sets in this winter, prepare this “home remedy” with the children or grandchildren. Then, deploy it when the strawberry plants exit dormancy in the spring! Good luck!

Methyl anthranilate is a substance that tastes horrible to birds but tastes bland to people. It might not be permitted in your area, and it can’t be utilized to grow organic strawberries. On occasion, it burns the leaves of the plants it is sprayed on.

Occasionally, switching up the varieties in your strawberry patch can help keep birds away. Planting yellow-ripe Alpine Gold strawberries could trick birds that are searching for red strawberries.

CDs or Aluminum Pie Plates on a String

This technique works on the same principle as the Mylar flash tape: bright, moving objects will scare away any vulpine birds in the vicinity. To use this method, just make a hole in a pie plate or tie a piece of string through the hole in a CD, then hang it from a fence or post close to your berries.

  • Pros: Movement and shine will frighten most birds off. This technique offers an excellent chance for recycling as well, as it allows you to utilize used aluminum pie plates and CDs.
  • Cons: This is almost anything but unobtrusive. And just like with the flash tape method, this approach won’t keep birds away for very long if they are extremely hungry.

FAQ

How can I keep birds from eating my strawberries?

The best way I know of is to screen the strawberries. They make plastic mesh that is fairly inexpensive. You can put hoops over the row of strawberries and stretch the mesh over the hoops. The birds can’t get to the strawberries, yet it is an easy matter to lift the mesh in order to pick the fruits.

Who keeps eating my strawberries?

While birds are a common annoyance for anyone growing berries, there are also several insect and gastropod pests that can be a problem. The most common strawberry pests are slugs, strawberry bud weevils, tarnished plant bugs, spittlebugs, and strawberry sap bugs.

Do birds and squirrels eat strawberries?

Strawberries Fragaria ananassa Duch., are delicious and packed with nutrition, so not just only humans love to eat them, but are tasty and nutritious to many other creatures. Unfortunately, birds, rodents and a range of other pests may harshly injury to strawberry plants.