Flying Friends or Foes?

Most birds gobble up so many destructive insects during the growing season that they’re worth their weight in hundred-dollar bills! And besides eating up the bugs that munch on your veggies, they’ll polish off the ones that like to bother you and your four-footed family members, as well. But despite these friendly flyers, other types of birds can make real nuisances of themselves, especially at spring planting time. So how do you tell the varmints from the volunteers? It’s simple—just take a close look:

Birds with either thin and pointy or short, wide, and gaping types of beaks are your friends. A bird with a thin and pointy beak pokes into all those tiny places where bugs hide and gobbles them up. They’ll also eat bugs off the ground, too. Wrens, warblers, kingbirds, phoebes, and all kinds of flycatchers fit this bill. Birds with short, wide, and gaping beaks, on the other hand, will grab their food on the fly, snatching pesky pests right out of the air. Swifts, swallows, nighthawks, purple martins, and whippoorwills all fall into this category.

However, birds with spindly legs and short, thick, cone-shaped beaks are seed eaters—and you want these types to steer clear of your veggie patch, at least until your plants are well past the seedling stage. A guaranteed way to protect your crops is to cover plants with nets or floating row covers. Or tie shiny items throughout your yard that will move around in the wind and scare the bird off, such as aluminum pie tins, helium-filled Mylar™ balloons, pinwheels, or small mirrors. Just remember to use a combination of objects, not just one, and change them every so often so the birds don’t get used to them.

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