Birds do a lot more good than we even realize, but birds become a problem when they overtake your space and start to cause a mess. We’re talking about the plants that birds hate, and how to use them to take back ownership of your outdoors!
If you’re noticing birds flocking to your yard, there are ways to deter them by using plants that they hate. Planting a variety of garlic, citronella, mint, basil, sage, lavender, thyme, rosemary, daffodils, spiked or thorny plants, and white flowers in your yard and garden will help keep birds away.
Although there are some plants that birds absolutely love, (like trees, fruit trees, sunflowers, elderberry, and daisies), there are also some plants that birds despise!
Why Birds Hate Certain Plants – Can They Actually Smell?
So, this is a very common question and ones that often is misunderstood. Many insects and animals sense food, shelter and mates by way of scent. It’s how they travel during their everyday lives.
For birds, it’s typically thought of that they don’t have a sense a smell OR they have a very weak sense of smell. However, that’s not entirely true.
A large majority of birds can in-fact smell. A very informative article published in the National Audubon Society discusses some prominent research findings where essentially 108 different bird species all passed the “sniff-test” indicating that they have SOME sort of smell. Some of the species included were pigeons, kiwis, blue tits, starlings and you know, over 100 others…
Now getting more specific on that, there’s some research published in the National Library of Medicine pointing birds having a sense of smell correlated to their olfactory bulb size, which impacts their sense of smell and overall effects sensory modality (basically how birds detect things through all senses.)
There’s more research out there, but you get the idea. Birds can probably smell, and they smell even better based on the bigger their olfactory bulb is.
Now, I’m no scientist, just a guy who like keeping birds from ruining his garden (they do a lot of good, too). It would be hard to imagine birds not having a sense of smell.
Granted while there is research that birds CAN smell, there isn’t as much research on what they like to smell and what they don’t like to smell.
Given the research I’ve done on scents and plants that various animals hate, the below plants will be ones that have sharp scent OR be quite thorny and keep birds away. This is based on what works for other pests.
So without further-ado, let’s take a peak into what plants birds actually hate and how to use them!
Birds Hate Garlic
Garlic falls right within the allicin family of vegetation. Birds absolutely hate this groups of plants due to their poignant smell and taste. Since garlic has such a strong aroma and taste, it is deemed unbearable by a bird, and they will stay far away from it.
Additionally, the pungent aroma can mask other attracting smells thus helping to keep them away.
Birds hate garlic because it can overwhelm their senses, but more importantly, it just doesn’t smell as delicious to them as it does to us! With this in mind, you can easily use garlic to deter birds in a few easy ways:
Plant Garlic Around Your Yard To Keep Birds Away
Planting garlic bulbs around your yard, especially in high-traffic bird areas, like around trees or flowers that birds tend to enjoy, will keep them away from those plants and, away from your space all together.
If you don’t want to or are unable to maintain garlic plants, you can use minced garlic or powdered/crushed garlic around your landscaping as well to create a strong-smelling barrier that will keep birds away.
Spread the Garlic Scent Through Spray
You can also make a garlic spray solution that will help keep birds away. Mix garlic, water, and vinegar; let it sit to dilute a bit, and then generously spray the solution around the areas you want to protect from birds. This can help tremendously.
Grab garlic oil extract like HawaiiPharm Garlic Extract. Adding droplets around your landscape and outside your home will let off a pure, garlic aroma that will deter birds.
Just keep in mind that you’ll have to reapply often to get the most out of the scent.
Onions Can Repel Birds
Another plant that birds absolutely hate are onions. Another allicin (like garlic), onion produces an extremely intolerable smell for a bird that they will surely stay away from.
If you have a vegetable garden, or vegetables that keep getting eaten by a bird, adding a Sweet Vadalia Onion Plant or green onions into your outdoor space will not only give you a great food source but will keep birds far, far away.
Much like garlic, by planting, sprinkling onion powder or onion slices, or by purchasing an oil like this Pure Onion Seed Oil, you can create barriers around your landscape and bird-prone spaces, to keep birds away for good.
Spiked and Thorny Plants Keep Birds Away
Other plants that keep birds away can be considered “defensive plants” or plants that have thorns.
Depending on your climate, you can use plants like variations of cactus, barberry, blackthorn, gooseberry, and holly all look beautiful, but since they are thorny, they work to keep birds and other pests away.
The best way to use these plants is to plant them in areas where birds seem to be going near the most. Also, planting them close together creating an almost meadow effect will be extra effective.
If thorny plants aren’t your style, here are the best bird spikes for small birds (and how to use them). These work quite well for fences!
Birds Are Known To Hate Citronella
Another plant that is widely hated by birds (and most of the pest community) is citronella. Citronella is one of the most commonly used repellents out there, since it is both effective and available.
Citronella, although fresh and lemony smelling, can mask other scents that attract birds and keep them away.
Citronella is formed from lemongrass plants. It is often sold in oil form, though each form it comes in is perfectly effective as a repellent.
To use in plant form, place lemongrass as a barrier around your yard. This natural repellent will also leave a fresh scent around your landscape.
A quick tip though: make sure to scrunch together the leaves of the plants a little bit after planting! This will allow the oils to activate and will allow you to smell the natural citronella aroma.
Keep in mind, the more concentrated the smell is (and pungent), the more likely it is to work!
Strong Mint and Herbs Can Work To Repel Birds
Another way to repel birds from your outdoor space is by using mint to effectively keep birds away, as birds hate the taste of it.
Mint is part of the Labiatae family, which includes oil-yielding plants like mint, basil, sage, rosemary, marjoram, lavender, pennyroyal and thyme.
Mint and some of these other herbs are all strong-smelling plants since they produce oils. Moreover, these fragrant plants can irritate a bird’s senses at stronger concentrations but they primarily mask scents that otherwise would attract birds.
To use mint to deter birds, plant it in your vegetable garden or alone in pots around your landscape. It will give you a nice, clean scent while keeping birds and other unwanted pests and insects away.
You can also use mint in essential oil form and add droplets or spray a homemade solution mixed with water and peppermint oil, around your yard and where birds are attracted to.
Blackberry Spikes Can Keep Birds Away
Another plant that can keep birds away is the blackberry spike, and it’s not so much that they hate the berry or taste, it’s that the plant itself is spiky and is dangerous to a bird.
Blackberry plants have thorny, thicket-forming shrubs, which are bothersome to birds.
Imagine being a bird and finding some berries, to only land on a spiky plant. Ouch!
Birds are not going to stay around where they feel unsafe or annoyed. With that in mind, planting blackberry spikes may be a good way to give birds a warning.
Birds Stay Away From Daffodils
According to Colorado State University, daffodil stems, leaves, and bulbs contain a chemical called lycorine. This can be dangerous for a bird, and get this—birds instinctually already know this!
With a bird’s awareness, planting daffodils will not only look beautiful in your backyard, but will keep birds and other pests away, as the sight of them merely means danger.
You can purchase these Daffodil Bulbs for Planting, which work great for all outdoor landscapes.
Birds Will Stay Away From White Flowering Plants
Although they may be inclined to go after a flower that they like, there’s a good chance that a bird will stay far away from it if the flowers are white.
White flowering plants, of any kind, are generally said to alarm a bird, as the color white can be dangerous to them.
Why? If birds are up against a stark, white-colored flower, it’s way harder for them to hide within the plant and thus, can be seen by predators.
Birds typically are darker in color or have bright-colored bodies, both of which will stick out like a sore thumb when compared to the bright, white flowers.
To keep birds away, planting a large perimeter of all white flowers can not only be beautiful, but will definitely keep birds away from your landscaping.
How To Keep Birds Out Of Your Yard For Good
Other than the use of plants, there are a lot of other ways that you can deter birds, and oftentimes, using multiple methods is the most effective way to keep birds away for good.
However, if you do have a bird problem, we always recommend checking in with a professional so they can create the best plan to tackle your issue.
Birds Hate Shiny Or Bright Objects
Birds absolutely hate shiny or bright objects. This is because when they land overhead, the shiny object reflect light and make it difficult for them to land. I highly recommend using mirrors, CDs, reflective tape, and even disco balls as some makeshift options.
Setting up some shiny objects in your gardens or around your home will work effectively in keeping birds away. When birds are flying overhead, if they see something sparkling on the ground, they are going to see it as danger, and most likely, avoid it.
Likewise, if you have mirrors hidden throughout the space, when a bird comes in contact with it, seeing its own reflection will startle them. They will think that a predator is nearby. You can even hang old CDs in your trees to keep birds away!
If you want to use this method, don’t feel like hanging CDs from your trees, try out these adorable Dyvicl Hanging Reflective Owls. They will be just like branch decor!
Birds Hate Being Out In The Open
One of the best ways can discourage birds by making your yard an open area.
Getting rid of piles of brush, logs, firewood, and any clutter that you may have in your yard is an effective way to keep birds away.
Birds hate being out in the open because they cannot hide from predators, and they typically feed and find shelter in areas with coverage. Removing log piles and brush will remove areas where a bird can nest!
Adding Predators to Your Yard Will Deter Birds
Another great way to deter birds from your yard is to add predators. Both faux or real will do!
Some real predators to birds are dogs and cats, and if you happen to have a pet that’s used to being outside sometimes, letting them patrol the area is an effective way to keep birds away.
Another way to use your dog or cat? Take some of their freshly brushed hair. Add the hair throughout your outdoor spaces. There’s a good chance that if a bird smells another animal, they will stay far away.
If you don’t have a pet and want to add some predators into your yard, adding faux predator decoys such as snakes, owls, foxes or coyotes will also help keep birds away.
Check out this super unique Design Toscano Polyresin Woodland Fox Decoy, that is adorable to look at, but will help scare birds away.
Adding Predator Sounds Outdoors Will Deter Birds
Another way to keep birds away is to add predator sounds that mimic animals that go after birds.
You can hook up an old CD and radio or get something more specific like his Pro Electronic Bird Repeller, that emits natural bird and predator calls, which will keep birds away.
If you’re looking for other sounds to use, learn how to use wind chimes work to deter birds in our in-depth article!
Use Store-Bought Bird Deterrents
When in doubt, using store bought bird deterrents can work effectively in getting rid of your bird problem.
Sometimes, making solutions at home can be challenging, and if you really want to get a hold of your bird problem, adding natural repellents into your outdoor space may be the best call.
This Flock Free Bird Repellent Spray is a great option as it’s easy, economical and safe to use. The spray also comes with some reflective stickers that you can add around your outdoor space.
Remove All Food Sources and Water That Attract Birds
It may be the most fool-proof solution to your bird problem, but removing all food sources from your yard is a great place to start when dealing with birds.
Removing bird feeders (or simply placing them further away from your home), cleaning up garbage pails, picking up acorns, cleaning up after fruit trees and vegetable plants, and even keeping seeding at a minimum, will help keep birds away.
Also, keeping pools covered when not in use, making sure to empty any post-rainstorm that any pots that may have gotten filled with water will keep birds away.
Birds are attracted to food, just like most pests, so removing a source of food and water is going to make it a less-than-ideal place for them to reside. With that in mind, keeping your yard free from food will deter birds away.
Granted, I love having birds around. So another idea here is to just place your feeders and bird baths near the edge of your property AWAY from your garden.
That’s A Wrap!
All in all, there are a bunch of plants that birds hate, and a ton of other things that they hate as well, and using these things strategically is the best way to tackle your bird problem.
Birds hate garlic, onion, defensive plants, blackberry spikes, daffodils, mint, citronella, white flowering plants and just plain ol’ being out in the open.
If you want to get rid of the birds in your yard, maintaining your landscape, creating an open space, and removing all food sources are key in keeping birds away.
Happy bird repelling!
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Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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