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Foiling Birds and Aliens

"No, you don't!"

Earlier this week I walked outside to see a chickadee on a tomato plant and a cardinal on a blueberry plant. More birds were waiting in nearby trees to see what happened to the reconnaissance team.

I have over three acres of land with many trees and shrubs planted specifically with the birds in mind. In fact, not far from my vegetable garden are two serviceberry (Amelanchier) trees with berries that taste much like blueberries. The birds are welcome to them. Also, earthworms and many tasty bugs thrive in soil that has been improved with rich organic mulch and compost. These critters provide a hearty meal to any hungry bird.

But my veggies and blueberries are off limits.

It was time to do something about it. Pronto. I shooed the birds away and thought about the problem. I had a couple of ideas.

First, I retrieved my old rubber lizard from the front garden and put him on the path that separates the tomatoes from the blueberries.This very old rubber lizard has been gnawed by dogs and tossed around by children. The dogs are long buried and the children are grown. But for all his chewed and missing body parts, I am still fond of him and he has a welcome spot in the garden.He is a scary creature, and I hoped any bird would be afraid of him. But in case the lizard wasn't enough to deter my flying friends, I had another plan to foil the birds.

I cut thin strips of aluminum foil and wrapped them around branches of the tomatoes and blueberries, very much like icicles on a Christmas tree. I think lots of shiny foil flapping in the breeze should intimidate any bird.Lou looked at my garden full of fluttering strips of tin foil and told me it reminded him of the science fiction movie "Signs," in which the main characters used aluminum foil hats to keep aliens from reading their minds. 

It is working. So far neither birds nor aliens have eaten any more of my tomatoes or blueberries. Though truthfully I can't say for sure if it is the lizard or the aluminum foil that is more effective. What do you think?


For a refreshing interlude from summer heat and to get another look at the lizard, you may also enjoy this post: A Snowy Monster and Other Things in My Garden

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Reader Comments (18)

That lizard has certainly earned his keep over the years, hasn't he? :-)

For your sake, Deb, I hope your interventions work; however, if my experience is any indication, any deterrent effect is temporary. My garden is loaded with lizards, which the birds seem to ignore - perhaps I need a bigger lizard (maybe a gila monster would do). I used shiny reflective tape in and around my grapes last year but the birds got used to it and eventually went back to foraging. The paper and net bags I used this year helped some but the fruit didn't ripen well. Grrr...

July 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

The lizard looks scary, but I bet they figure out he doesn't move. The foil on the other hand should scare the daylights out of them. Kudos to you Deb.

July 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

Could be both working in tandem well? Lots of aluminium strips fluttering with the breeze sounds fun though!

July 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

I hope your efforts work and that you get to eat your crop of berries!

July 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPauline

The foil looks like it should be effective.

I've also heard some people get results by suspending CDs (or DVDs) in the garden that spin in the breeze and send light scattering this way and that.

July 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

How large is the lizard?

July 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

Hi Deb, yours is one of the few blogs I still make time to read :) This post made me smile as I've done the same thing with shiny tape this year to keep birds from eating seeds I planted! Also bought those inexpensive shiny windmills that I've stuck in the beds. Look so pretty when the wind blows! Only downside is taking photos because of the glare....

July 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Chapman

Good luck keeping the pests out of your garden! I'm having Japanese beetle problems now, after they gave me a few years off. Grrrr!

July 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

In Maine, our delicious native lowbush blueberries are a favorite food of wild turkeys. One blueberry farm I used to buy berries from had big Mylar balloons with faces painted on them bobbing around everywhere to scare off the turkeys. A lot of people around here put netting over berries to protect them from the birds.

July 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJean

Ah, you do the rubber scary predators, too? I'm glad I'm not the only one! I have a giant, five-foot (six-foot?) long rubber snake that I wrap around my Asiatic Lilies. That, combined with two layers of fencing, seems to keep the rabbits AND the birds out of the Lilies, for the most part. I use pepper repellent and three rubber scary lizards around my Hyacinth Bean vines. I just tried the hanging CDs, as Aaron mentioned, this year for another section of my garden and that seems to be working, too! Gardening for and with wildlife can be a little tricky, right?!

July 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBeth @ PlantPostings

Thanks for your comments, everyone! Each is important to me. Denise, you asked about my lizard. He is about 15 inches (38cm.) I am also thinking about buying a rubber snake; a good five-footer like Beth's should do! Deb

July 5, 2015 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

It's just a shame you can't use that aluminum foil to read the critters' minds.

July 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Jones

I think the foil will work; I've used it on raspberries and figs. Important to remember to take it down as soon as the fruit has finished or the birds will become used to it!

July 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I like the foil. :) The only way to know for sure is to try them each separately and then document how much of each fruit goes missing. I have blueberry bushes and the resident catbird checks them daily to gauge their ripeness. Once they're perfectly ripe, she'll devour them all. I'll grab what I can but she'll emerge the victor. I don't mind. I can always go to the farmer's market.

July 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

I finally had to net my veg gardens to keep out the deer mostly and also the rabbits, woodchucks and birds...I don't like to share my food. Love the lizard.

Hmm, that lizard's pretty scary looking! I love your aluminum foil solution - I might have to steal that once my blueberry bushes get big enough to produce blueberries!

July 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

Hi Deb, I hope the aluminum foil keeps the birds of your blueberries and tomatoes. I just wonder if over time they get used to the foil, recognizing that nothing bad is happening to them, and return to continue to eat your veggies and fruit. Hope you keep us posted.
The lizard looks very scary to me, but I don't know if birds feel the same way. Here the real ones also often don't have a tail because they dropped it, when an animal was trying to get them.
Warm regards,

July 10, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterchristina

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