Issue: May 13, 2006

Protect grapes from birds | Quail eating grass seed

Protect grapes from birds


How can I protect my grapes from birds?
- Guadalupe Co.


People have tried many methods to protect their grape crop from birds. Some try hanging shiny strips of aluminum foil, aluminum pie pans, and even old computer CDs among the grape vines. The idea is for the birds to be frightened by the flashing, reflected sunlight as the aluminum or CDs spin in the wind. This may be somewhat effective on sunny days but is ineffective on cloudy days and in the morning and evening (when many birds are feeding).

Some gardeners prune and trellis their grapes in a manner that causes the berries to be hidden under the foliage. This may also help but only until the birds find the berries. Once the birds find them, the hiding place is not effective.

Dr. Jon Boren, New Mexico State University Extension Wildlife Specialist, says that repellants (flashing light or odor repellants) are usually ineffective. He recommends "exclusion". That means suspending nylon mesh over the vines so that the birds can't reach through it to eat while perched on the mesh. It is also important for the netting to extend to the ground and be anchored so that birds cannot enter under the bottom of the mesh. Such netting is available through garden supply companies and on the internet.

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Quail eating grass seed


I am hoping that you can help with a pest problem. I live south of Alamogordo and am trying to plant grass. Quail are becoming a big problem. They have eaten all the seed that we have spread. I am wondering if you can give me any ideas of how to keep them out of the yard. Will something as easy as a scarecrow work? Are there any plants that they stay away from or possibly some scent that they don't like that can be purchased and sprayed in that area? We don't own a cat (which I imagine would work), but cats have a short life span in rural areas. What can I do?
- South of Alamogordo
  Debbie A.


Have you covered the seed after spreading it over the landscape? If the seed are covered by a shallow layer of soil, the quail may have a more difficult time finding all the seed. Cover them by raking lightly after spreading.

I spoke with Dr. Jon Boren, New Mexico State University Extension Wildlife Specialist, about your problem. He thinks "exclusion" is the most effective means of protecting the grass seeds until they germinate. In this case, exclusion means doing something to keep the quail from having access to the soil with the seeds. Fencing will not work, but suspending chicken wire or other small mesh material a few inches above the soil (on stakes) may provide sufficient protection. If the mesh is placed directly on the soil, it will be ineffective. If you are seeding a large area, you may need to do this in small areas over a period of time.

Dr. Boren and I discussed the use of mulch to conceal the seeds. A one-inch layer of straw may help but is likely to blow away. A "geotextile" mulch (such as used by the highway department to revegetate roadsides and prevent erosion) may be effective. It is bound together but it is biodegradable and will not create problems in the future after the grass has established.

A final thought is "misdirection." In an area away from where you are trying to establish the grass, provide the quail with seed to eat and water to drink. It may be possible to direct them to an area away from the seeded area, or it may invite many more quail and other animals into the area to help eat the grass seed. If you try this method, Dr. Boren would like to know if it worked, or if it failed.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!