The Brilliant Trick That'll Keep Crows From Eating Your Vegetable Garden

Battling crows amongst your corn rows? Crows are hungry besties, unnervingly smart, and honestly pretty big, so getting one up on them in your garden is easier said than done. If you think you've tried every technique to keep pesky crows out of your garden, such as garlic spray, hanging party balloons, or making an old-fashioned scarecrow, think again. All you need to do is temporarily hang a framed mirror above whatever crop you want to keep these winged menaces away from.

People give all kinds of reasons for why this trick works, from crows disliking flashes of light or being distracted by a mirrored surface to thinking the bird they see in the reflection is a competitor or predator. In fact, it appears the efficacy lies in the fact that corvids, the bird family crows belong to, are neophobic — and crows particularly so. In other words, they avoid anything new in their environment. Wild crows are even more likely to be wary of novelty than their urban counterparts, as per a 2016 Ethology research paper.

Passionate amateur birder and YouTuber Bird Watching HQ conducted a nearly two-week study to test whether crows were attracted to shiny items, and found that the crows actively avoided their favorite foods when he placed a tray of shiny objects in regularly visited birdfeeders. A 2015 study published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology found that juvenile crows were far more reluctant to interact with new people than those they were familiar with.

Get the most out of the mirror

You can use any kind of mirror as a crow deterrent — think a bathroom or dressing table mirror on the smaller side. Ideally, look for a mirror with a plastic or painted metal frame. In 2003, researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that birds particularly shied away from red mirrors, so you could also try to hunt down red-hued mirrored glass. If the frame is wood, paint or stain it with an outdoor finish. Then, simply hang the mirror at about (human) eye level above or near the vegetables you're aiming to protect. You can also hang other reflective objects in place of a mirror, like old CDs, reflective tape, or aluminum foil.

However, be cautious because birds, including crows, sometimes fly into mirrored surfaces during mating season. They mistake their own reflection for a rival. This happens most in spring and early summer, so try to avoid hanging mirrors around this time or disguise the mirror by hanging it behind a trellis. Mirrors also reflect the sun, which can be a fire risk, so keep this in mind when deciding on placement. Avoid placing your mirror near bird feeders or birdhouses — they can scare away the birds you want to attract. And remember, over time, crows will get used to this new intrusion into their environment; they'll no longer be wary of it. The mirror trick works best in combination with other methods designed to rid your garden of pesky birds.