4 Colors That Birds Hate (And How To Use Them)

Colors that birds hate

Birds can help with pest control, seed dispersal, and pollination, and sometimes they’re just plain pretty. On the other hand, birds may make messes and build nests where they don’t belong. How can you deter birds from your yard if they have become a problem?

You can use certain colors to keep birds away. The most common colors that birds hate are white, red, blue, and metallic colors as they signify that danger is in the area. Birds have seemed to adapt their behaviors to avoid colors that have proved to be problematic for their species.

Keep reading to learn more about how to use these colors in your yard to prevent nuisance birds from taking up residence!

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Can Birds Even See Color?

The short answer to this question is that yes, birds can see color.

In fact, birds have phenomenal vision—even better than humans—and can see colors very well.

Each individual color may have a different meaning depending on the species of bird, but colors can be key indicators for factors such as:

  • Food
  • Mating
  • Migration
  • Safety
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) perched in sand on bright background and looking at camera in Extremadura, Spain. April. Wildlife Scene of Nature in Europe.

Birds Use Color To Find Food

Between the nectar in flowers and ripe fruit on trees, bushes, and other plants, color is an essential factor when birds are determining whether or not their potential food source is ready for eating.

When fruit is ripe and ready for eating, the fruit is usually at its brightest color. For birds, this change in color signifies that the fruit is ready for eating and that they can consume all of the fruit’s nutritional goodness.

Similarly, the brighter the flower, the potential for more nectar. Some birds, like hummingbirds, will be attracted to these plants, but insects will also come to the flower to use it as a food source.

Because insects are an important piece of many birds’ diets, birds will come to these brightly colored flowers to feed on some of the insects having a meal of their own.

Birds Use Color To Attract and Find Mates

Did you know that birds shed their old feathers in a process known as molting? After winter has passed, many bird species’ dull plumage will be shed and replaced by fresh, more brightly colored feathers.

This change in plumage helps to kickstart the breeding season. When birds display more bright, colorful plumage, this can be an important indicator that a mature bird is healthy and could be a strong and worthy mate.

Birds Use Color During Migration

When the season changes from summer to fall, cooler temperatures roll in and the air seems to feel crisper.

For many of us, myself included, the best part of this season is watching the changing of colors that many tree leaves undergo during this time of the year, and we look forward to this event year after year.

The changing foliage can also be an important event for many different bird species. The changing colors can be a key indicator that the season is changing and that it’s time for them to migrate to other areas with warmer temperatures.

They Use Color To Identify Areas Of Safety

All species have at least one predator, and it’s no different for birds. Birds can fall prey to a number of other animals—including other larger birds!

Owls, hawks, and eagles are common aviary predators of birds. Snakes, coyotes, and bobcats have also been known to eat birds.

While some of these predators blend into their environment or appear camouflaged, their more neutral earth tones to their coloring—whether it’s feathers, scales, or fur—may be a warning sign in and of itself to some birds to stay away.

Great-tailed Grackle or Mexican grackle in Cancun (Quiscalus mexicanus)

How To Use Colors To Keep Birds Away

So, now that we know a little bit more about how colors can help attract birds, how exactly do we flip this knowledge to help keep birds away?

There are specific colors that birds hate and will avoid when they can.

More often than not, birds will stay away from certain colors for their own safety or protection. Whether it’s cause for danger, alarm, or just a good ol’ warning.

Here are four colors that birds hate and will do their best to avoid:

  • White
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Metallic colors

Let’s take a closer look at each of these colors, what they might signal to birds, and how to use them in our landscape to keep birds away!

Birds Hate The Color White 

White can be a very bright and even at times even a blinding color to the eye, especially depending on the backdrop or scenery.

I mean, have you ever been outside on a sunny day when there’s freshly fallen snow? Talk about bright!

For birds, the color white serves as a signal of alarm, danger, and even potential aggression in other birds.

For example, on a northern mockingbird, there are patches of white on their wings which may help indicate to other birds their territorial—and aggressive—behavior.

The northern mockingbird is known to be very protective of its nests and its feeding areas, and, as a warning, this bird will flash its wings at any unwelcomed visitors to give them a warning before they dive at the interpreted intruder.

So, while we don’t recommend going ahead and welcoming northern mockingbirds to your yard in drovers, there are other ways that you can incorporate white into your landscape and plant life that will not only not attract birds but may very well warn them to stay away.

A mockingbird sitting on a wire of a fence.

White Colored Flowers To Add To Your Landscaping To Keep Birds Away

While these flowering plants will have a combination of white flowers and greenery from their stems and leaves, the contrast is pleasing to the human passerby and the flowers are bright white enough in color to make birds think twice before visiting your yard. 

Check out a list of a few popular white flowering plants and the Hardiness Zone that they grow best in to see if they would thrive in your area. 

If white flowering plants aren’t your style, check out some other plants that birds hate!

White Flowering Plants That Repel Birds

FLOWERHARDINESS ZONE
Easter lily4 - 9
White lilac3 -7
Peony3 - 8
Hydrangea3 - 9
Canna lily moonshine2 - 10
Hellebore astilbe4 - 8

Red And Blue LED Lights May Deter Birds As Well 

I can hear you thinking right now: “But red and blue are bright colors!”

It’s true – these two colors can be bright and at times may even attract birds, especially if their feathers are the same color. However, according to a study by Purdue University red and blue LED lights may actually be used to create “avoidance behavior” in birds.

The study looked at different wavelengths of light that may overstimulate the eye by using specific bird species and then assessing their reaction (attraction or avoidance) to the lights. Consistently in their testing, birds avoided red and blue colored LED lights.

Folks have also tried to use UV, or ultraviolet, lighting to shoo birds away, however, the university’s findings didn’t support this lighting approach as a deterrent for birds.

How To Incorporate LED Lighting In Your Yard

We know that running electrical throughout your property probably isn’t too high on your to-do list, if it’s even on your list at all.

Instead of calling an electrician out to light up your yard and garden area, we’ve compiled a list of a few ideas that you can do on your own to help incorporate LED lighting in your yard to help keep birds away.

  • Add waterproof LED light ropes to your patio or garden. If you’re going to use lights out in the yard, waterproof is a must. Using a product like Power Practical Portable LED Rope Light Lantern is a great way to add a lighting solution to a specific area of your yard. 

As a bonus, this light comes in a variety of lengths, colors (red and blue – you’ve got it!), and is USB powered so you don’t have to worry about constantly replacing a battery!

  • Install LED pathway lights. Plenty of pathway lighting options are available at your local home improvement store, but make sure that you’re focusing on the LED options to be the most effective. VOLISUN Solar Driveway Lights have a blue lighting option that comes in a 4 or 12-pack option depending on your specific needs and the area you’re looking to illuminate.
  • When in doubt, use LED holiday lighting. We’re not talking about decking out your property in red and blue LED Christmas lights all year round, but utilizing string lighting is an economical way to add lighting to your yard. 

Whether you’re looking to string lights around your larger bushes and shrubs, redo your patio or canopy lighting, or illuminate your fence line, FUNPENY has a number of red, blue, and combination LED lighting options for you to choose from!

Urban pigeons sitting on a tree branch, winter view

Birds Also Hate Metallic Colors 

While this one had me stumped for a minute, as I began to think a bit more about it, it does make sense.

Metallic colors, especially those with any sort of reflective properties, don’t offer birds any protection or coverage from potential predators so they will avoid these colors whenever possible.

Whether it’s silver, gold, copper, or any one of the variations in between metallic color options, these metallic colors don’t do much for birds in the way of indicating a food source and will often leave them more visible to potential predators in the area.

As a result, if birds spot these colors in an outdoor environment they’re likely to stay away from them.

How To Incorporate Metallic Colors In Your Landscape

Depending on the type of lawn and garden ornaments that interest you, and the overall aesthetic that you’re trying to achieve, we have a handful of ways that you can tastefully incorporate metallic materials into your yard without having it look like a junkyard. 

  • Check out your local garden center or craft fair for decor. Who doesn’t love a weekend of thrifting or visiting your local craft show? No matter the season, you’re likely to be able to find a wide variety of metallic decor for your lawn and garden at either of these locations. 

From decorative signs to the quintessential flamingo decor and so many more knick-knacks to choose from, there’s no doubt that you’ll be able to find several unique decor pieces that fit your personality. 

  • Use reflectors on your wooden borders. Whether you have a fence, patio, raised garden beds, or other flat surfaces in your yard, adding reflectors may be another option to add reflective, metallic colors to your yard. 

Check out STARREY Flexible Reflective Tape for a quick add on option to a variety of materials, but there are also reflective stake options for the ground and metal reflectors that can be nailed or screwed into wooden materials as well. 

  • Hang metallic wind chimes or spinners. This option might provide some added security against birds because, in addition to their metallic colors, these items also provide movement—and in the case of wind chimes, sound—which also helps deter birds. 

For these items, you can find many options at your local home improvement store, nursery, or craft fair, and if you’re the adventurous type, you can even create your own to use! 

Don’t be afraid to be a little unconventional. Try using metallic decorations on your garage! If that doesn’t work, try one of these other tactics to keep birds out of your garage!

Other Ways to Repel Birds WITHOUT Using Colors

Adding one of these colors, or a combination of them, to your yard will help keep birds out.

Depending on the level of activity you’re experiencing though, adding some additional preventative measures, along with putting these colors to work, will help reduce the bird activity that you’re experiencing. 

Here are a couple of additional ways that you can keep birds out of your yard: 

  • Remove bird feeders and bird baths. If you aren’t willingly providing food and fresh water to birds, they’ll look to other areas for these basic needs. 

And yes, while we may accept that homemade birdhouse from our younger niece or nephew, we may also want to reconsider hanging them from our backyard trees if we want to limit bird activity.

  • Keep trees and large shrubs trimmed. Keeping your larger branched plants in your yard properly maintained will help limit possible nesting sites for birds. 

Of course, as trees grow higher than you can trim on your own, this can prove to be a challenge, but keeping these properly pruned when you’re able to will not only improve the plant’s health but make visibility for any unwanted bird activity more easily spotted.

Wrapping It Up!

If you’re looking to limit the amount of bird activity on your property, consider adding some of the following colors to your yard to help deter birds:

  • White
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Metallic colors

In order to achieve maximum reduction in bird activity though, in addition to putting these colors to work for you, consider also limiting your bird-friendly additions in your yard like bird baths, houses, and feeders.

Doubling up on a combination of these solutions, as well as keeping your yard in an overall well-kept status will have your bird activity diminishing in no time. 

References

Bennett, A. T., Cuthill, I. C., Partridge, J. C., & Lunau, K. (1997). Ultraviolet plumage colors predict mate preferences in starlings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 94(16), 8618-8621.

Holmgren, N., & Hedenström, A. (1995). The scheduling of molt in migratory birds. Evolutionary ecology, 9(4), 354-368.

Lorenz, K. Z. (1937). The companion in the bird’s world. The Auk, 54(3), 245-273.

Lyytinen, A., Alatalo, R. V., Lindström, L., & Mappes, J. (2001). Can ultraviolet cues function as aposematic signals?. Behavioral Ecology, 12(1), 65-70.

Maxwell, D. Which Flower Colors Best Attract Pollinators & Birds?.
Werner, S. J., Kimball, B. A., & Provenza, F. D. (2008). Food color, flavor, and conditioned avoidance among red-winged blackbirds. Physiology & behavior, 93(1-2), 110-117.

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