Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Citrus Gets the Bird

If my poor Citrus trees have not had enough problems this year with the early, intense heat, Whitefly, Mealybugs, Black Sooty Mold, too much water, not enough water......Now, they are getting the bird!
I am not sure what kind of bird it is, more than likely Grackles, I haven't been able to catch them in the act, but I do recognize the damage. It looks something like this:

When it comes to Citrus, bird damage does not affect the fruit. It makes it ugly, but it is still edible. Injured peel tissue becomes blackened and develops a pock-marked surface cosmetically unacceptable for the fresh market. As the fruit approaches maturity later in the season, however, birds may penetrate into the pulp, thereby spoiling the fruit and causing it to drop.
As you all know, bird damage is probably the biggest problem fruit producers deal with. Everything from Blueberries to Strawberries, Peaches to Apples have problems with bird damage.
One thing that causes so much frustration is, birds rapidly become accustomed to conventional noise-generating devices. There have been many different things tried over the years, from the common scarecrow, to pie plates, and Barry Manilow CD's, both fluttering in the wind and being played in the field. They work for a little while, but the birds still become accustom to them and probably actually laugh at our feeble attempts, especially the Barry Manilow CD's!
Nets are by far the most effective means to thwart their attempts. As long as you are trying to protect a shrub or a small tree. Just make sure the net comes all the way down to the ground and is secure, or the little fiends will get under it and rob you anyway. If you have a large tree, this method probably won't work either.
While researching for this article, I came across some rather interesting things that, to some extent, work.
According to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management website, Propane exploders (some with timers that automatically turn them on and off each day) are the most popular frightening devices. Just the name of this one actually scares me! Though, they look like they might be kind of fun:
They say, In general, use at least one exploder for every 10 acres of crop to be protected. Elevate exploders on a barrel, stand, or truck bed to “shoot” over the crop, and move them around the field every few days. Basically, Propane exploders make a loud sound that frightens the birds, it probably doesn't do much for your neighbors either.
They say in conjunction with the propane exploders, you can enhance this method by shooting a .22 caliber rifle just over the top of a crop, a person on a stand or truck bed can frighten birds from fields of 40 acres or more. Okay, again, this method tends to frighten me a little!
There are of course a variety of other bird-frightening devices, including electronic noise systems, helium-filled balloons tethered in fields, radio-controlled model planes, reflecting tapes made of mylar, tape-recorded distress calls of birds and the good old use of firecrackers. The effectiveness of any of these is highly variable, depending on the persistence of the operator, the skill used in employing a device, and the proximity of your neighbors.
I also found a Japanese study that studied the effectiveness of a dog for protecting citrus fruits from bird damage during harvest season. A Border Collie Shepherd was tied to a wire extended along one side of a square orchard to allow him to run along the inner side of the orchard. This watchdog system was effective in reducing fruit damage by birds only in the Citrus tree row nearest to the dog runway.
Then the orchard was enclosed with a tall chain-link fence and the same dog was allowed to move freely in the orchard. In this case, he persevered in chasing birds until they flew away from the orchard. This watchdog system effectively reduced bird damage to Citrus fruits all over the orchard.
So, I guess the moral of this story is.....You want to protect your fruit, get yourself a dog, your neighbors will appreciate that a lot more than having propane explode every so often!
Happy Growing!


  1. I like that watchdog idea! I just posted about my shetland sheepdog a second ago too! Honestly, barry Manilow cds would do the trick for me... maybe some beegees. That falsetto voice would set the birds on edge in no time!

  2. What you need is a peregrine falcon or red shoulder hawk to help you out. Some local blueberry farmers have reported excellent results.

  3. Hi, I know this post is really old, but I have parrakeet type birds, either Galas or similar in Oz pulling leaves off my lime tree. Literally the leaves are everywhere. I have tied CDs on the tree and the birds have just undone the knots and taken them down. Any ideas, I worry the tree will not survive much longer without help.

    1. That is interesting. I have never heard of the birds pulling the leaves off. I could understand it if they were using them to line a nest or something like that, but to just tear them off like vandalism is strange.
      You also seem to have very intelligent birds if they can untie the knots. They probably were laughing at the CD's anyway. Depending on how big your trees are, you may need to try netting. If they are small, this will be no problem, If they are rather large trees, then we have a problem.
      Have you noticed if there are any insects on the leaves that they might be going after?
      Maybe, and this is a long shot, can you start feeding the birds? If they have food to eat, maybe they will leave the leaves alone.
      One last long shot, I am not sure if birds of this type can smell, maybe if you use some need oil on the tree, the smell will repel them.
      I wish I had a better answer, but this is a new problem I have never encountered before. Please, if you try any of these, report back to me and let me know if they work....I may end up writing an article about it. Send any reports or pictures to:

    2. That should be neem oil on the post above.