A calm pond filled with beautiful koi and goldfish offers endless hours of peaceful relaxation to the humans that built it, but for birds, it is an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Birds are the number one reason homeowners don’t keep their fish ponds adequately stocked with fish.
Without protection from predatory wild birds and other predators, your fish will not survive to give you years of viewing pleasure.
It is illegal to kill migratory birds that may be feeding at your fishpond. Fortunately, there are other steps you can take to deter hungry birds and protect your fish, beginning with where you place the pond.
10 Ways to Keep Birds Away From Fishpond
Let’s have a look at some effective ways you can use to protect the fish in the fishpond by keeping the birds away.
Protect Your Fishponds With Physical Barriers
The first thing you can try is physically removing bird’s access of the fishpond
Choosing the right place for your fishpond
If you haven’t put in your fishpond yet, choosing the right place for it can make a huge difference for the survival of your fish later.
Fishponds installed close to a deck or a patio will suffer fewer bird attacks than fishponds set in the middle of your yard.
Fishponds placed near fences or trees offer good protection for your fish.
A fishpond running along the front of your house with a bridge leading to your front door is also a great way to keep birds away and protect your fish, especially if you have lots of traffic in and out of your house.
Reducing Access to a Fishpond that has Already Been Installed
If your fishpond has already been dug, there are still ways you can add attractive features that deter predatory birds from attacking your fish.
Give your fishpond a backdrop of thorny shrubs. Use plants to create a visually attractive setting for your pond that birds like herons and storks can’t penetrate.
Put a low, ornamental fence around your pond. A wrought-iron fence about 2 feet (60 cm) tall around your pond makes it impossible for a bird just to step over the fence and test the waters.
Birds that do not know that they can place at least one foot on the bottom of the pond won’t take the risk of falling in.
You can keep out other predators by adding some clear plastic netting behind the fence. It won’t interfere with your view, but it will keep raccoons and other predators out of your pond.
Why is the Placement of Your Fishpond so Important?
The major predators of pet fish, storks, herons, and ibis, have a broad wingspan. They need a large, open area to land.
When you place a fishpond in the middle of an open area, they can dive down to the pond with their legs extended, so they appear to be walking on water.
They are actually looking for exactly the right spot where they can set one leg down to stand on the bottom of the pond while they scoop up your fish.
All of this happens in just a few seconds.
But If there aren’t any openings for them to glide down to your fishpond, they would have to walk from an open area all the way to the pond.
This deprives them of the element of surprise and gives fish an opportunity to hide as the birds approach.
But let’s suppose you have lots of fish and not all of them can get away in time.
Make Sure Your Fishpond has Steep Sides
Once you have placed your fishpond so a bird like a heron can’t simply glide down and catch a fish, the next step is to make sure your pond has steep sides.
If a fish-eating bird can’t feel the bottom when it takes its first step into your fishpond, he is not going to just blindly venture into the pond and hope they don’t have to swim.
And the bird has to be able to put one foot on the bottom to support itself while it grabs a fish.
This leads us to the next consideration.
Make Sure Your Fishpond is At Least Three Feet (About a Meter) Deep
The birds that eat fish are not good swimmers.
Their approach is to attack fish from above and then quickly fly away.
If a bird beats all of your other defenses and then lands in deep water, it will quickly retreat when it discovers that it cannot stand on the bottom without getting its head wet.
Install a Motion-activated Spray Gun
Another method of protecting your koi pond from birds is a motion-activated water feature.
For less than US $100, you can install a bird-deterrent water gun that sends a spray of water over the pond and beyond when it detects motion over the water.
Getting sprayed with water does not harm the birds, but it startles them so they fly away.
Place the motion detector so it “sees” the entire pond. You need to keep the plants around your pond trimmed so the motion detector responds to birds anywhere on the water.
Motion detectors usually have several settings, and you do not want the motion detector to be so sensitive that it responds to raindrops or landings of small birds.
Put Out a Decoy
There are many situations in which you might deter birds by putting up a scarecrow, or maybe by installing an animatronic owl.
These decoys are effective, but they aren’t very attractive.
To protect your fishpond, you can use a decoy that both works to keep the birds away and adds to the beauty of your fishpond.
Place a metal sculpture of a heron in any color (gold and bronze are attractive, but still effective) at the edge of your fishpond, where it is visible to any predatory birds flying overhead.
The birds that eat fish in fishponds are usually very territorial. They will not attempt to feed where they see other birds of their species.
They will only see the silhouette of a bird when they fly over your bird statue, but that is enough to motivate them to keep flying and look for fish elsewhere.
Decoy owls and hawks, by the way, will not protect your fishpond,
Create an Obstacle Course for Predatory Birds
One of the benefits of building your patio next to your fish pond is that you can spend endless hours just sitting on your deck, enjoying your fish.
Another benefit of building your patio next to your fishpond is that patio furniture deprives birds of landing space.
A table and chairs will give you and other members of your family a place to sit and read the newspaper or your phone while you drink coffee or have a glass of wine and watch the fish.
Their footprint becomes an area where predatory birds can’t land.
Low-growing ornamental plants around your fishpond don’t interfere with your view, but they keep birds out of your pond.
Spiky and thorny plants deter birds and pets, as well as children, from getting into your fishpond.
Hang Shiny Objects Over Your Fishpond
Have you ever looked into an old-timey glass Christmas ornament or maybe old-fashioned cut glass?
The reflection of your face gets distorted, or maybe turned upside down.
Predatory birds have the same experience with shiny objects hung over your fishpond.
They see their own reflection and interpret it as motion. But they don’t know what is causing the motion. They avoid the possibility of encountering one of their own predators by flying away.
You can, of course, hang used CDs, balloons, or reflective tape over your fishpond to scare birds away.
But you can also find bright, reflective, metal ornaments that add to the aesthetic of your pond while protecting the fish that live in them.
Install a Trip Wire Around Your Fishpond
A fishing line makes an effective fence around a fishpond.
Just place some ornamental solar pathway lights (the kind that charge during the day and provide gentle light at night) around your pond and string a fishing line between them.
The fishing line needs to be about 18 inches (45 cm) off the ground. It is invisible, so you need to be sure that everyone in your family and all of your guests knows it is there.
When a heron or some other fishing bird walks up to your pond, it will stop when it feels the fishing line.
Fishing birds like herons don’t encounter invisible barriers in nature, so they won’t know they can just step over it.
Provide Your Fish with Hiding Places
Placing large pipes or any other kind of hard, semicircular material on the bottom of your fishpond gives fish a place to hide when predators attack.
The drawback of this method is that you would have to provide hiding places for all of your fish, or you are just helping the heron zero in on the weakest fish.
What About Bird Nets on Fishponds? Do they Keep the Birds away?
Netting will keep herons and other predatory birds out of your fishpond.
The problem with netting is that birds can still see the fish in the pond. They can stick their beaks through the net and kill your fish.
They just can’t reach through the net to grasp and swallow the fish. This leaves them with no alternative but to kill even more fish that they can’t eat.
Netting won’t really work unless you can keep it at least two feet (60 cm) over the surface of the pond.
The problem is, if you do that, it is really unattractive. It is OK for short-term protection, but it interferes with your enjoyment of the pond over the long run.
Other (less-effective) Bird-deterrent Methods to Protect Fishponds
Here are some other methods of protecting the fishpond that may or may not work for you.
In nature, carp like to hide in underwater fields of algae and moss.
In a fishpond where many fish live in a small space, however, underwater plants do not survive very long.
Water lilies and lotus stand up better to fish than most other aquatic plants, but you would need to strike a balance between the area covered by plants and the area where fish are visible.
Many backyard gardeners find that metal pinwheels add interest to the landscape while confusing birds looking for fish.
Metallic windchimes hung over the pond can also work, if you like the sound.
The limitation of both of these deterrents is that they are not effective on cloudy days. They don’t work at night, either, but birds are usually asleep then.
The sight of shiny plastic balloons with giant eyes printed on them scares many birds away.
However, balloons have to be replaced regularly, and they can easily blow away. Also, they probably will not contribute to the look you are trying to achieve with your fish pond.
Devices that play seagull distress calls or that imitate gunshots or sonic booms have two important limitations.
One is that your neighbors, your pets, and your family may find them extremely irritating.
The other is that hungry birds will learn to ignore them, especially if they go off on a regular schedule.
Motion-activated strobe lights are most effective at night, when birds aren’t likely to be hunting for fish.
They may be useful during the day, but the motion detector must cover the entire pond.
They may be helpful as an additional line of defense for your birds.
Chemical Bird Repellents
Products like Bird B Gone and PGNX are sticky substances you can put on ledges and railings to keep birds like pigeons and starlings from landing.
However, the methyl anthranilate in these products is toxic to fish, and won’t stay where it is needed around a pond.
Garlic, Cayenne, Onions, and Peppermint Oil
Birds don’t like strong odors, like the odors of garlic, cayenne, onions, and peppermint oil.
However, people don’t like these odors, either. The most effective chemical deterrent for birds is a compound called cadaverine, but most people find it to be repulsive.
It is highly attractive, however, to buzzards, which are also undesirable around your fishpond.
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