(Last updated November 13, 2020.)
My goal is to see birds as garden teammates — as they eat insects that can be pests, such as aphids — and not as enemies as they peck the fruit on my trees. As far as my experience goes, the best way to accomplish this is to prevent birds from access to the fruit.
I’ve found two forms of protection to work well: bagging and netting.
If a fruit tree is large or if there isn’t too much fruit on a tree, then bagging individual fruit or small clusters of fruit is effective and economical.
I’ve used mesh produce bags, like this one from Earthwise that is protecting a bunch of grapes:
Here is a cluster of pluots that I protected with one mesh bag:
I’ve also “bagged” fruit using swatches of breathable fabric held together with clothespins. Here are a couple peaches protected like that:
The other effective protection I’ve used is netting, but I’ve never used the nets that are actually sold for that purpose. Those nets have mesh so large that the net gets snagged on the ends of branches too easily. And if you leave the nets on, branches will grow through them.
I like to use tulle fabric. Specifically, I buy “Economy Colored Polyester Tulle in Bolts” from Papermart, and I buy a bolt 108 inches wide by 50 yards long, which costs around ten dollars. This bolt has enough fabric to protect the fruit of dozens of trees.
Sometimes I just wrap branches or sections of trees, like this Blenheim apricot:
Obviously, some fruit is still vulnerable to bird pecking so I do this only if the crop is huge and I don’t mind losing some.
If the tree is small enough, I often wrap the whole thing, as with this Pink Lady apple:
I do the same with blueberry bushes:
I use rocks to hold down the tulle fabric around the blueberry bushes whereas I fasten the tulle fabric around branches or whole trees with clothespins. It’s easy to poke your arm into the seams of this tulle wrap in order to harvest fruit without having to remove the netting.
(I use the same tulle fabric to protect my vegetables from rabbits. See “Protecting vegetables and fruit trees from rabbits.”)
One thing that I haven’t found effective is hanging reflective strips in a tree. When I did this in a Fuji apple tree the birds continued to peck the fruit at the same rate as before.
One of the kinds of birds I’ve got pecking my fruit is the scrub jay. Scrub jays are smart. I can’t imagine them having been deterred by a reflective strip for more than twenty seconds.
Finally, while the bags and nets have proven very effective at keeping birds from pecking the fruit of my trees and grapevines and blueberry bushes, these nets do not stop certain other critters. Rats and possums will chew right through these bird barriers and then consume the fruit. You’ve got to deal with competition from those animals in other ways. But I suppose that’s a topic for another post.
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