Attracting Beneficial Birds to Your Orchard and Keeping Away Unwanted Species
If you’re looking for some birds to make themselves at home in your orchard for the purpose of natural pest control and pollination, here are 10 you’ll want to attract:
1. Chickadees: These cheerful little birds are very beneficial, friendly, and just as smart. Keep some feeders full of suet and sunflower seeds, and they will remember there’s food to be had in your orchard. They will flock in groups, happily taking care of any grubs, caterpillars, and insects found on your fruit trees.
2. Bluebirds: A great tactic to prevent pests like apple maggots and coddling moths is to integrate more bluebirds into your orchard. Known for their beautiful singing voices, the bluebird is great at plucking flying insects out of the air while also eating beetles, weevils, and even grasshoppers. Set up functional bluebird houses on every row to attract them to your property.
3. Hummingbirds: The diet of hummingbirds is not limited to the nectar of flowers, and they will consume a number of small insects, like gnats. Their main benefit to an orchard, or any outdoor space, is their role as a pollinator. Even if your fruit trees are self-pollinating, having an abundance of native plants and flowers around will create a healthy ecosystem, keeping things in balance and pests in check.
4. Wrens: These little fighters like to forage for insects in the trunks of fruit trees and will eat up any sized crawlers they find along the way. They are competitive when it comes to any food, so if you put out bird feeders, they may hoard it all in sneaky places! They are especially good for pear orchards since they will eat the “pear psylla,” a common pest.
5. Tanagers: Tanagers are bright, tropical birds that fly in for spring and stay until fall. They are one of the few birds that are excellent at eating stinging insects. They will dance along branches looking for any insect they can find: beetles, caterpillars, flies, cicadas, but may also nibble on small fruit, so best not lure them into orchards with berries. Still, as some of the only predators of wasps, they are a benefit to have around.
6. Woodpeckers: As their name suggests, these noisy birds will bore into trees to get at many troublesome insects like aphids, beetles, and millipedes, but their main diet consists of the pupae of moths and caterpillars. They are pretty neat to watch as they work their way around a tree in a spiral formation and will especially benefit apple orchards that suffer from the coddling moth.
7. Tree Swallows: Tree swallows will consume large quantities of insect larvae, mosquitos, moths, snails, grubs, and caterpillars but also dine on flying insects like flies and moths, making them one of the best birds to have in your orchard. They will happily set up camp in birdhouses, just like the bluebird, and like to graze over open areas.
8. Kinglets: These tiny birds have a lot of spunk and are fun to watch, bouncing around in search of ants, grubs, and snails. They like to hunt for insects closer to the ground and will also feed on beetles and caterpillars. Attract these hearty insect eaters with some extra food in feeders, a few birdbaths, and places to shelter and nest.
9. Hawks: Hawks are sometimes seen as an ominous sight, but they keep ecosystems in balance by taking care of small vermin, snakes, rodents, and large insects – all of which will benefit a healthy orchard. As long as there is enough prey around, they typically don’t interfere with or hunt other beneficial birds, but some species will go after whatever they can get their talons on.
10. Owls: Owls, and especially the barn owl, can be extremely beneficial to any orchard that suffers from rodents and vermin, or even snakes. They are nocturnal and hunt at night, making them excellent predators that will pursue the prey that hawks don’t. They will kill smaller birds, but choose a variety of prey, rather than taking out a specific species.
Once you’ve identified the 10 birds you want in your orchard and the ones you don’t, it’s time to choose the best bird deterrents. The best way to keep away birds that you don’t want in your orchard is to select bird deterrents based on the type of bird. There are visual deterrents, like Owl Kites and Predator Eyes, to scare away larger birds, as well as audio deterrents, such as noise makers and ultrasonic devices that birds can’t stand the sound of. Bird Netting can also be put up to protect fruit from being eaten or cause an obstruction that some birds won’t fly over.
Whatever deterrents you choose, make sure to hang them in multiple locations around your orchard and to move them around. If a bird gets used to seeing the same deterrent in the same spot, they won’t be scared of it anymore. The same theory applies with audio deterrents: best practice would be to switch the ultrasonic sound up daily to keep the birds on their toes.
Finally, with any tactic used to prevent pests in an orchard, organic options are always the way to go. Before using any type of chemical deterrents or sprays, research and test a holistic, eco-friendly option first. Keeping predators and pollinators in balance is the best way to ensure a healthy orchard, whatever type of fruit is being grown. So get out there and attract those birds!