Magpies are easily recognizable by their black beaks, obsidian eyes, and white and black feathers. If you have a healthy and well-tended garden, these birds would likely make your garden a regular haunt. For many gardeners and homeowners, these birds are more than a nuisance by their actions which include eating garden vegetables and fruits, attacking other birds and small animals, and swooping on people in the guise of defending their nests.
This is why folks invest considerable time and energy in finding creative means of how to get rid of magpies in garden. There are several ways of handling this situation. However, killing them might not be an option because, in most areas, they are protected birds. A special license might be required before going down that route.
We are going to take at a look at workable methods of controlling these birds in your garden that doesn’t involve killing them. First, though, understanding magpies’ behavior is necessary for coming up with effective strategies.
Understanding How Magpies Behave
Magpies, along with other birds, are grouped under the crow’s family. They are very social and intelligent. As well as the deep black and white feathers, they are also identified by bird calls humans find irritating. They hang out semi-permanently where they build nests for the young ones only leaving when the young magpies are strong enough to fly independently and fend for themselves.
Some other typical magpies’ behavior include the following:
Magpies are inquisitive
The curiosity for new things exhibited by magpies is the foundation of the popular myth that magpies are thieves; stealing anything they can carry on their beak.
The truth is, they tend to be interested in everything including shiny objects. They would pick up any object just to examine them. As soon as they are done though, that object is dropped as it no longer holds any interest for them.
In this respect, they are likely to pick up valuable objects after gaining access to a house. But it’s likely the light shining off the object caught their attention and is not in any way a reflection of a kleptomania trait.
They could just as easily pick up a shiny and useless object if it were the first thing that caught their eyes.
One trait folks hate about magpies is the fact that they are predators especially of smaller birds like songbirds. They are very consistent and noisy about this.
One moment, you could be dreamily watching two songbirds going through the motions of courtship on your lawn, and the next moment the idyllic scene is shattered by a magpie attacking them. This can be very upsetting.
Another myth made popular by movies is that magpies can attack and kill people. According to these films, the eyes are the first point of attack to blind and consequently render the victim useless.
However, this swooping action is simply a form of self-defense and only happens when people get too close to their nesting areas. These attacks are usually carried out by the males when they feel their family unit is threatened.
There is nothing aggressive and angry about it. They fly off and leave when the person runs away from the vicinity. At this point, their risk assessment has determined the person is no longer a threat.
Magpies can recognize faces
Many people are surprised when some of their friends keep magpies as pets. What they don’t know is that the birds can recognize and even recollect the faces of people for many years.
If you are good to the magpies in your garden (by feeding and protecting them consistently) they’d always remember your face as a friendly one that constitutes zero risks to them. This makes it possible for you to approach and play with them or vice versa.
Conversely, they won’t forget negative encounters and the face behind these encounters.
Magpies stay close to food sources
People tend to be appalled when they see magpies frenetically pecking at the carcass of a dead animal thinking the poor thing was killed by the birds. That is very inaccurate. The birds are simply feeding on an animal that had died. The carcass attracted them because it is food.
That is why magpies are usually found around thriving gardens that represent a great source of foods like fruits, garden insects, bird feed, garden garbage, and small animals scurrying around the garden.
They also love perching on cattle such as cows because of the insects found there. So you could say they are doing animals a favor cleaning them up of all the insects on their backs.
How to Get Rid of Magpies in Garden
There are several ways to rid your garden of magpies without having to kill them since this is likely illegal where you live.
Before starting though, your first task is to find out where the birds have their nests. It is best to do this before the breeding season. But if they are already in your garden, you need to determine this from a safer distance to avoid the possibility of being attacked.
Move the nest
Once you’ve found out where the nests are, simply move them to a new location as far away from the garden as possible. It is preferable to move the nests to a location where there are no other bird species because of the predatory nature of magpies.
Moving the nests at this stage makes it less likely the magpies would attack you as there are no young ones to protect. Be prepared to repeat this step as magpies have been known to rebuild their nest in the same location.
Eliminate or protect food sources
Magpies would eat anything from birdseed and farm produce to pet food, leftovers in the trashcan, and other edible things they have access to. Being omnivores, you can be sure they’ll find something to eat.
You can start by moving all pet food indoors. If you are averse to keeping pet food inside the house, you can move them to the garage. Inspect other areas of your garden and make sore no food that is not being used immediately is left lying around.
Roof gutters make a very good repository of edible food. Gutters can collect worms, leaves, and dirt. These are very tasty food for the birds. So if they congregate on your roof regularly, that could be because of the food in the gutters. Clean the gutters out. Without food, they are likely to move away.
Change your birdfeeder
If birdwatching is one of your hobbies, you likely have bird feeds in strategic locations around the garden. These are places magpies love to hover around because of the simple access to a good meal. Expect them to bully and chase away the smaller birds the feeders were installed for.
The easiest solution here is to remove the feeder. But you could keep feeding the birds by changing to feeders designed exclusively for smaller birds. These feeders are capable of preventing magpies from gaining access to the bird food.
Some designs ensure the feeding bar is lowered when the heavier magpie lands on the feeder. Another design that is just as effective employs a metal casing with holes around the feed to protect the food inside. Only small birds can get in via the holes.
There are many suitable birdfeeders with creative designs you could choose from depending on your budget and other requirements.
Remove birdbaths too
Like all birds, magpies love and are attracted to water. Get rid of water sources and birdbaths (if you have them) at least for the duration of your battle against magpies. Water sources include pools of water in the garden.
One way of creating a water pool is by over-watering your plants. Now is the time to stop doing that.
What about a permanent pond, canal, or creek with water? Here, you simply scare them away by with decoys that you move around regularly. We’d look at how to scare magpies with decoys later.
Use nets to cover garden produce and fruits
In the war against magpies, protecting fruits and garden produce is the objective. Since you can’t remove the fruits and produce from your garden until harvest time, protecting them is the best strategy.
Using suitable protective netting is the easiest way to go about it. Protective netting for the purpose can be bought in hardware stores and come in various sizes. You can cut them according to the sizes you want to cover patches of land, cages, or raised planters.
How to Scare Magpies Away With Decoys
Scarecrows – Scarecrows can be used to scare off magpies. However, after a while, they get used to it and won’t be frightened. So, it’s best if the scarecrow can be moved easily to different locations in the garden.
Old CDs – If you have old CDs in the basement, garage, or attic, you could put them to use chasing magpies from your garden. String them about 5 feet apart in your garden. The unpredictable movement of the plates and inevitable light reflections from the shiny surface would scare the birds.
The downside is, this would also scare other birds.
If you don’t have old CDs, bird-tapes or half-full water bottles would be effective too.
To be consistently effective, changing the positions of the CDs, bird-tapes, and water bottles from time to time is advisable.
Intermittent playback of recorded predators – Playing The sound of bigger birds such as owls would have them flying off to safety. The sound should be played only at irregular intervals or the birds would get wise to it fast.
Also, regularly switch the location of the speakers or your magpies would adjust to the sound fairly quickly and recognize that there is no imminent danger.
If you have a magpie problem in your garden, nothing should be taken for granted in getting rid of them; or else all your hard work would be in vain. Understanding that magpies usually congregate close to food sources should underpin any strategy of how to get rid of them in the garden.
There are several methods of going about this. Generally, a combination of strategies works better than just a single method because magpies are highly intelligent creatures. And due to that intelligence, you might still be unsuccessful in getting rid of them after giving it your best shot.
The final option, in this case, is to notify the local council if the nuisance factor is at a level you can’t abide. You’d be granted permission to take extreme measures (kill if possible) against them or experts would be drafted to help you resolve the problem one way or the other.