Most people love songbirds. And who doesn’t enjoy the sight of a beautifully feathered bird visiting for a few seconds on the lawn, or a hummingbird hovering at the feeder?
It’s natural to enjoy birds as visitors, but when they decide to move in, it’s time to take humane action to persuade them to fly to a more suitable home.
In this article, we will share 15 kind and gentle methods of keeping birds away. There are no humane methods of controlling birds that are 100% effective.
A few birds will evade any bird-deterrent method. But there’s at least one practical method of controlling nearly every bird in every space.
Remove food sources
Think of removing food sources as using a reverse-feeder. Just as you put out hummingbird food and birdseed to attract birds you like, you can remove other food sources to curb visits from birds you don’t.
Some of the most obnoxious birds, like starlings, enjoy dining on beetle grubs. Effective grub control keeps these birds off your lawn. It also makes your lawn less attractive to raccoons and skunks.
Use bug zappers to reduce the numbers of flying insects that attract birds you don’t want, or encourage the presence of birds you do want that eat flying insects, like martins.
Other undesirable birds, like some of the meaner varieties of crows, love to rummage through your garbage. Keep your surroundings picked up and orderly, don’t make compost in an open compost pile, and keep the lid closed on your trash cans.
It also helps to keep fallen fruit and nuts from accumulating on the ground. Even better, keep up with your fruit, nut, and tomato hardest to enjoy the produce yourself.
Prevent birds from using the same nest twice
Are you familiar with the saying “You can’t stop birds from lighting on your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair?
There’s a similar principle for controlling problem birds around your house. Both US and Canadian laws prohibit removing bird nests or disturbing birds while they are incubating their eggs or while they have young birds still in the nest.
But as soon as birds fly away, you can remove the nest so they don’t come back.
Be aware that most species of young birds relieve themselves in their nest. Bird waste harbors bacteria and fungi, some of which may be harmful to people (and, for that matter, harmful to the next family of birds).
Spray the abandoned nest with an antibacterial spray that you allow to dry before removing it, and don’t handle the nest without gloves on your hands. If there is waste nearby, scrub it off to keep it from corroding metals or staining wood.
Dispose of nests in the trash, making sure you keep a lid on the can to keep other birds from scavenging nesting materials.
Then consider the following methods to keep birds from building a new nest in the same location.
Keep your trees pruned and manicure your lawn
We all know that trees are prime territory for nesting birds.
Branches provide shelter for nests. They block wind, rain, and sun, and they provide cover against predator birds looking for nestlings as they fly high overhead.
Trim branches and shape your trees to give birds less room for nesting.
Harvest ripe fruit before birds can get to it, and pick up fallen fruit so birds won’t regard your trees as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Keeping your lawn neat and clean makes it, well, boring for birds. A flat surface of uniform, short, green grass presents no features that birds will notice.
You also want to make sure that your lawn isn’t harboring beetle grubs and piles of earthworm castings that garner avian attention.
When birds are invasive, you can keep them out of trees and bushes with bird netting. Always have at least a foot (30 cm) between the netting and branches so no bird can land on your tree or shrub.
Intimidate birds with shiny objects
Birds are attracted to stationary shiny objects, but they are skittish about moving shiny objects.
A metallic mirror hanging on a wire so it moves in the wind, or a reflective mobile, or, in a pinch, crumpled aluminum foil suspended on a string from branches in your trees will keep birds alert to danger so they don’t stop in your yard.
The only requirement for the shiny objects you use to keep birds away is that they must be reflective and mobile. Old DVDs and CDs and non-breakable mirrors are fine, as is reflective tape wrapped around a string and hung from a branch.
For a more aesthetically appealing option, consider a spinning reflective bird deterrent.
It’s like a wind vane except it reflects sunlight to scare birds. There are also bird-deterrent reflective rods that reflect light like a prism and that catch the wind so they move unpredictably.
Spray decks, patios, trees, and shrubs with liquid bird repellent
If you need to keep birds out of a relatively small area where you and your family like to enjoy the outdoors, like your deck or patio, consider applying liquid bird repellent.
Liquid bird repellents contain naturally occurring chemicals that smell good to humans but are irritating to birds.
The most common ingredient in liquid bird repellent sprays is a chemical called methyl anthranilate. To humans, it just has a grapy, fruity smell. It’s not really mouthwatering, but it’s not particularly offensive.
In birds, it triggers a condition similar to trigeminal neuralgia in humans. Birds feel pain around their beaks and can’t feed until they fly away from the source of the chemical.
Methyl anthranilate will protect young seedlings from birds. Commercial vegetable growers use it to protect their crops, and agricultural scientists have confirmed that it protects fruit crops.
You can find methyl anthranilate in “liquid fence” products primarily designed to keep geese, chickens, and turkeys out of vegetable plantings.
Be sure to read the instructions before your spray: some products need to be diluted with water while others don’t. You can spray methyl anthranilate on your windows every 3 to 4 days or whenever the smell dissipates to keep birds from flying into them.
Block openings to your house or outbuildings once birds have left
There’s not a lot you can legally do to remove nesting birds from your chimney, attic, crawlspaces, or shed before their hatchlings have left the nest.
For over 100 years, both Canadian and American federal laws have prohibited interference with the reproductive activities of migratory birds.
However, once the nest is empty, you can remove it (see our recommendations above) and seal entry holes so birds don’t come back.
Never just evict a mother bird, leaving the babies defenseless. They will die of thirst and starvation, or provide food for rats, and you will have an even worse situation later only with a different pest.
Always wait for the nest to be vacated before you block the flight path to it. Once it’s time to block entry, then you need to figure out how birds got in and take appropriate action.
Seal cracks with copper wire and ceiling foam.
Board up holes in siding, replace rotten lumber or seal small holes with wood putty that you paint over when it’s dry. Place wire mesh over our chimney to keep out birds and other pests.
If you are not sure all the young birds have left the nest, you can install a temporary one-way bird door over holes that allow birds to fly out but not to fly back in. Don’t block openings to two-way traffic until you are sure all the birds are gone.
Break out the big guns
People who have problems with pigeons sometimes resort to sonic cannons to scare the birds away.
In situations in which bird control is a priority in public safety, such as during takeoff and landing at airports, scientists have studied just how effective bird cannons might be in keeping the most problematic species of birds away.
The answer is – a lot.
Chinese scientists have discovered that sonic cannons clear out pigeons for a distance of up to 30 meters (about 100 feet) and make pigeons more cautious about flying and landing up to 300 meters (about 1000 feet) away.
Sonic cannons replaced the older method of scaring birds away with random gunshots. Guns, of course, require bullets, and bullets that go up in the air have to come down somewhere. Shooting a gun into the air can cause an unprepared and unsuspecting bystander grave injury or even death at a considerable distance from the shooter. And shooting a gun into the air is illegal inside city limits all over North America.
Sonic cannons are designed to imitate the sound of gunshots at random intervals. If you choose, for example, a 1- to 10-minute interval for your sonic cannon, it might send out a loud boom and then another nine minutes later, but a third boom four minutes after the second. The idea is to keep birds and other pests from becoming accustomed to loud sounds at regular intervals.
And because the blasts are at 130 decibels — enough to cause hearing damage in humans — birds won’t want to raise their young nearby. You need to wear hearing protection when you are changing the settings of your sonic cannon.
Sonic cannons can clear out birds from an area as large as 10 acres (4 hectares). They are great for keeping birds out of fields, but they are far too loud to be used for backyard bird control or in any urban setting.
Your neighbors are sure to object to your use of sonic cannons no matter how much they are also annoyed by birds. But there is a less obnoxious alternative control method.
Use Ultrasonic bird repellent devices
Sometimes you want to keep birds off your deck, off your porch, or of your patio without unsightly bird netting or reflective devices.
You don’t want a whiff of grapy smell from methyl anthranilate while you are sipping your Chardonnay, and you certainly don’t want your conversations interrupted by sonic bird cannons. In these situations, you can use ultrasonic generators to repel flying birds.
Birds can hear frequencies above the range of human hearing. Ultrasonic sound generators send out frequencies that irritate the openings in a bird’s head that serve as its “ears,” causing it to fly away.
Using an ultrasonic bird repeller couldn’t be easier. Just hang it near the area where you want birds to stay out, and turn the generator on. For best results, you will need to run the ultrasonic generator 24 hours a day.
This is a good place to comment on some sound-based bird-deterrent devices that generally don’t work. There are devices that generate imitations of the sounds made by bird predators.
Unless birds encounter an actual, real-world predator after they hear a predator’s call, they lose the fear of the sound generator.
There are also sonic devices for repelling birds that imitate bird distress calls. Eventually, birds become habituated to the distress calls and ignore them.
Low-frequency “pink noise” generators that put out sound at frequencies below the range of human hearing also help keep birds away.
The problem with some of these frequencies, particularly 12 Hz, is that they can make people sleepy. At least you wouldn’t have as many birds interrupting your nap.
Keep birds out of roosting areas with bird shock tape
Bird shock tape connected to a bird shock charger keeps birds off roosting surfaces with a mild electric shock. Birds aren’t harmed, but they will avoid another painful shock by flying away.
All you have to do to install bird shock tape is to peel off the backing on the adhesive side and lay out the tape flat against the roosting surface adhesive side down.
Once you connect the leads at the end of the tape to your charger, you have an effective roosting deterrent. Of course, you will need to avoid touching the tape yourself once the generator is connected.
You can use shock tape to stop birds from roosting on anything with a flat surface, including pipes, shingles, and the tops of walls.
Shock tape is nearly invisible when the backing is removed, so birds won’t have a visual signal to warn them where it has been laid. They’ll just stay away from the general area.
Don’t put out shock tape where there is foot traffic by children or where it can be reached by pets.
Make sure you are not placing it in migratory bird habitat, just to cover the rare possibility you could get a visit from a fish and game inspector who might fine you for interfering with migratory wildlife.
Install a motion-activated lawn sprinkler
Nothing else tells birds “Get off my lawn” quite as well as a motion-activated lawn sprinkler.
Birds fly away on cue when they encounter unexpected events, like sudden dowsing of water on a sunny day.
You don’t have to worry about running up your water bill or leaving your lawn standing in water. That’s where the “motion-activated” part comes in. The only time birds are sprayed with water is when the motion detector senses movement.
You will need to point the sensor upward, so it detects birds in flight, not the wind rustling in tree limbs or the motion of wind chimes.
You will also need an adjustable spray, so you won’t be sending water where you don’t want it to go.
Put up bird roosting spikes
Roosting spikes metal rods that are too thin for birds to use as a perch. A roll of roosting spikes covers enough of a flat surface that birds can’t find a place to stop and rest.
The easiest way to put up bird roosting spikes is to buy bird spike strips that come with adhesive tape on the back. Just peel off the tape, exposing the adhesive, and lay flat on the surface you want to protect.
You can also buy individual spikes, but they are a lot more work, and you will have some trial and error experiences determining the right spacing.
Once your roosting spikes are installed, you only need to keep debris from collecting between the spikes.
Go fly a (bird-repellent) kite
Want birds of all kinds to keep their distance from your property? Try flying a bird-repellent kite whenever you have a strong breeze
Kites can scare birds away before they fly over your property. In that regard, it’s hard to find a better bird repellent than a large and strange-looking kite that no bird can figure out. And the kite does bird no harm.
With a kite flying high over your property, birds won’t come close enough to the ground to leave their poop or eat your flowers. They won’t take over your lawn or buzz you on your patio.
Just be sure to use a kite that is large (think condor-sized), brightly colored, and reflective. Sudden flashes of light can temporarily blind and disorient birds so they will stay away.
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