Birds love ripe strawberries, and who could blame them. Imagine a bird just flying along and spotting, below, a dessert bar—a long matted row of sweet, juicy berries. Why not stop for a bite! Well, you planted strawberries for your family, and everyone is waiting for them to ripen, that's why not.
What's a gardener to do?
Rubber snakes and inflatable owls mimic natural predators, but they don't work for long. Birds soon figure out that these stand-ins never move, so you need to change their position every few days, which can be quite a hassle. Items that do move, like aluminum pie pans or old CDs hung from nearby branches, or Mylar tape fluttering from stakes, blow about and make scary reflections, but don't tend to work very well.
Undoubtedly the most effective way to protect strawberries from birds is to drape the strawberry patch with bird netting, an inexpensive plastic mesh with ¼-inch holes. Supported on a frame like a floating row cover, or held above the plants by stakes topped with upside-down flower pots, the netting will keep the birds from getting to most of the berries. You can buy bird netting at garden centers or online.
Check frequently for any birds that may have gotten underneath the netting and become trapped. They will have had plenty to eat, but will need to fly back to their nests.
Tip from a Reader: S. McGraw added this comment about bird netting to our "Grow a Strawberry Fountain" article: "...Put the bird netting over the entire pot structure, leaving enough room around the edges to keep the birds from pecking through the netting to the strawberries, and secure the bottom of the bird netting with landscape stakes. Be sure to re-secure the bird netting after each picking."