I need to set the scene, smallish garden, obviously well kept and tended with love. Voluptuous beds, hardy perennials that flourish, pretty borders so alive with colour and inviting to the bees.
Pots on the patio, ransacked and surrounded by mud. Onions and garlic in the vegetable patch dug up and destroyed. The bird feeding station emptied, lopsided and seed strewn all across the lawn.
Silence fills the air, no melodious birdsong fills the air.
Is this the same garden?
It looks like World War 3, though on a very tiny scale you understand, has kicked off!
It doesn’t take long to find the culprits, there eating the discarded seed are Three. Big. Blackbirds.
Blackbirds Love to Dig things up!
These large birds come into your garden and throw their weight around. Devouring the contents of any feeders in minutes, leaving nothing for the smaller birds, frightening them off with their intimidating presence and beady eyed stare.
They use their strong, long beaks to dig through your pots and borders foraging for grubs and worms with total disrespect for the hard work you’ve put in.
Some of this happened to me so I decided to arm myself, with information that is, put on my tin hat and go in to battle with these beasts!
Apparently, my garden is an all you can eat buffet to blackbirds. Berries on bushes, the moist soil in the well-watered borders and the frequently replenished bird table and feeders means I may as well have a flashing neon light saying Blackbirds Welcome Here!
To begin with I dealt with the bird feeders, I invested in a couple of enclosed tube feeders. They have a clear plastic casing around the tube with a gap just wide enough for the smaller birds to fly in. The first one I bought wasn’t much use as the food platform was too low down so the blackbird’s long bill could still reach the food. My second attempt foiled him, food higher in the tube.
The same outcome could be achieved by wrapping your feeders in mesh and leaving a small hole I imagine.
Weighted feeders work well too, the sensor detects when a larger bird lands and locks the food door.
Not so big and tough now
Then I hung my suet balls beneath the bird table, blackbirds have a fear of being trapped beneath something, so this was quick and effective and the little birds could still negotiate with ease and outwit their rivals. A small board with a whole drilled in works well on feeders too, the blackbird will not attempt to fly beneath it.
The apple CAN’T fall too far from the tree
A little knowledge goes a long way I found, once I realised that blackbirds are ground feeders I ensured that the apples on my tree were picked before they fell, those that I missed I gathered from the ground quickly. Rotten apple is a gourmet dish to a blackbird it seems!
Blackbirds have food preferences just as we do, sunflower seeds, bread, wheat and corn are his favourites. By limiting these offerings he should start hunting elsewhere, this didn’t work for me, whatever was in the feeders, he ate!
They are also partial to dog food oddly, so if you’re an outdoor feeder, get that dish in as soon as it’s empty.
Veggie patches attract blackbirds, particularly if you grow alliums, onions, garlic, leeks and the like. Mr Blackbird is clever enough to know that the soil will be rife with earthworms around here, breakfast lunch AND dinner for the family. He will use his powerful beak digging for them, disturbing the bulbs and making a general mess.
Prevention is better than cure I find, you will need to cover all of the plants. Cheap, fine plastic mesh is readily available, stake it down at each corner. Fleece is available for the same job too but I find this a little unsightly.
A friend of mine used a reel of black cotton entwined round and around a few small bamboo canes he’d sunk in the soil, it was almost unnoticeable to the naked eye yet it must have bamboozled the blackbirds as up popped a perfect crop of scallions!
This works well too with pots and planters with regularly watered soil, most of mine are close to the house so rarely do the blackbirds come so near. If yours are more brazen then try tying a few old c.d.’s to a length of string and hanging them above your pots, sparkly tape works too. The reflected light dazzles and scares the birds away.
Keep Britain Tidy
Or at least your little bit of it. Rotting leaf piles are a breeding ground for bugs and so almost definitely a place to find a blackbird rummaging for food.
Sweep regularly and keep lids on composters and recycling bins.
Prune bushes and shrubs often, those berries attract the blighters like moths to a flame!
Bye Bye Blackbird
This has overall left me in a quandary. Firstly, the blackbird certainly isn’t the worst bird is it? It’s no feral disease ridden pigeon for sure! Nor do I mind that it enjoys eating the slugs, bugs and caterpillars that thrive on decimating my garden, however
I miss the little song birds, fluttering from feeder to table, singing and busying themselves with their babies in the bird box. I enjoy watching them eating the suet balls I lovingly prepare for them, with little fear of intimidation from big brutes.
So that’s my decision made, salting the slugs is a small price to pay for a garden full of birdsong!