Bird deterrents: Save your snags at camp

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Save your snags with these simple, non-invasive ways to detract birds.

Words by Scott Heiman

How often have you set up a barbecue, only to have a magpie swoop in to steal a snag straight from the grill while you’re having a chat? Or perhaps you’ve created the perfect picnic – and then had the occasion spoiled by a pilfering Indian myna? And we’ve probably all had to clean up acidic avian droppings from the back of our camper canvas.

More worrying is when wild birds start getting too close to our kids, having been hand fed by the previous 100 park visitors. While I know that brush turkeys are harmless, try telling that to our five-year-old when one is peering at her with its beady eyes and naked red and yellow head. At her age, these little black devils are the stuff of nightmares!

While we like our feathered wildlife, we simply prefer them to stay in the trees and out of our antipasto platter.

So here are some tips – all legal and humane – to stop pesky birds ruining your day. With a bit of imagination, they may even save your bacon. Literally.


You may have heard of sonic and ultrasonic professional bird scarers. Ultrasonic sound is above the range of human hearing, and cannot be sensed by our ears, while other sonic scarers make predator noises.

These devices emit sounds that confuse, disorient and intimidate pest birds, keeping them away. Some even come with sounds of eagles to frighten the pest birds away, which makes sense as no-one wants to be lunch. This sort of technology, however, will cost you between $100-$1000.


One of the simplest and cheapest bird deterrents is an old CD or DVD tied to branches or awning poles around camp, preferably one with its shiny surfaces intact. The wind makes the disc spin and sway. While this movement alone might be enough to repel pesky birds, the sun’s reflection on the surface of the disk will create flashes of light that will dazzle birds.

Birds are even more sensitive to ultraviolet light than what we class as ‘visible’ light, having four different types of cone cell receptors compared to us who only have three. And birds can also see the spectral differences between two similar colours better than us because their cones have a ‘filter-layer’ that
ours don’t.

Therefore, to a bird, a spinning CD looks like a fly swatter emitting a rainbow strobe-light on every spin (and you thought mirror balls at a nightclub were distracting). sells a popular commercial variant used by orchard farmers in Australia’s fruit growing regions. It’s called holographic ribbon tape or reflective scarecrow tape. Simply stretch and spiral it around like a party streamer so the circular holograms flash dramatically in the slightest breeze, sending our feathered friends on their way. Every time we get to a campsite our five-year-old thinks we’re setting up for
a party!


Another useful form of bird deterrent is the imitation owls and hawks that you may have seen in your neighbour’s garden around the veggie patch. These are called Prowler Owls and Scare Hawks. They are a particularly effective visual scare device because every bird probably knows instinctively that owls and raptors will catch and eat almost anything half its size.

These devices can be mounted on broomstick or suspended like a kite from a tree. Made of tough, weatherproof plastic for durability, many of them don’t need batteries. Some are for hanging up – while others are ground mounted. While they operate in still conditions, some work better with a breeze if they have wings that flap and/or rotating heads. Others have a built-in sensor so that the eyes flash and make an audible hoot every time something flies or walks past. These noisy options have the added benefit of working at night to scare possums and foxes – or two-legged thieving Toms.


With an estimated 23 million feral cats roaming Australia, birds know they’re a menace. There are 3D archery targets that are made to look just like feral moggies, some of which are so lifelike they can fool us humans, too. So pop one around your food preparation areas to keep the birds away.

Made of ballistic foam, these cats are very durable. 


When we got back from a recent trip in the Red Centre, we were annoyed to find that the local magpies had made a playground under our back porch, meaning that everything was covered in guano. A quick chat with a mate revealed that he’d had the same problem a few years back and placed a rubber snake on the barbecue, and on the outdoor table – moving it around periodically to keep the feathered blighters on their toes.

We got one for ourselves from the local zoo shop and the back deck has been free of bird excrement ever since. We now carry two in the camper as well.


If you find a bird deterrent that works, don’t get complacent and stick to just one technique. Birds get savvy to what we’re doing, particularly around a campsite that may have seen them before, so it’s best to use more than one of these passive deterrents. Then move them about to keep the birds guessing.