Magpies can be desired and detested in equal measure, depending on the person and situation. On the one hand, they’re uniquely intelligent birds, with a well developed social system accompanying their well developed appetites. Unfortunately, they’re not only incredibly hungry, but predatory to boot. A small flock will happily devour an entire rabbit left gutted in the garden, so it’s no surprise the ease with which they crack open eggs waiting to hatch, or even kill the live young of other birds around the garden. If you want to keep the other species safe you can read on for a little info on deterring the creatures.
First up, a very simple a cheap system for deterring magpies from your garden. Oddly enough, these socially advanced creatures absolutely cannot abide being looked at by other animals, particularly those they can’t identify. In Australia the birds have been known to attack children in the street, who then took to strapping paper eyes to the reverse of their caps. The magpies see the false eyes, spook easily and are quick to back away.
This is an easy method to adopt, and there are a few ways to expand upon it to make it even more effective. Start off by making a few sets of paper eyes at home. Once you’ve got a few pairs start posting them up around the garden. Trunks and walls are best, a nice flat surface where they’ll enjoy a lot of visibility. Fasten them on with sellotape for longer-lasting results.
The tape actually plays into the best way to improve the technique. Magpies are more likely to spook from objects which reflect light well. Not only are they bright, but they better represent the glistening effect of an actual eye. The best value for money solution you’ll find requires two types of object. A thread of string and any loose CDs and DVDs you’ve no intention of keeping. String the CDs together into long hanging ornaments, then affix them to walls, trunks and branches. They’ll turn in the wind, reflecting randomly while also resembling a circular eye, complete with pupil.
In small domestic gardens these techniques will prove successful enough at scaring off the pesky, predatory birds. So long as you maintain good lines of sight so a pair of eyes or reflective CDs are constantly in view the magpie population should quickly begin avoiding your property. In larger areas setting up a large number of these items tends to be an inefficient use of your time. Instead consider a scarecrow with reflective eyes. They’re an old standby, and the appearance of a conscious human does wonders deterring these birds.
Francesca has been writing about UK wildlife and garden birds for years, from providing them with shelter to keeping them safe from predators. Now serving as a featured contributor to Garden Bird, a premier supplier of bird feed and care accessories, she hopes to expand her audience even further.