Got heron issues? It’s OK we can talk about it. You’re not alone. Many pond owners at some point or another will deal with some sort of predator, heron or otherwise, that haunts their pond. Being prepared with some know-how when it comes to deal with them is something all pond owners should strive for. The following is a compilation of some of the top ten methods of dealing with the predatory Great Blue Herons. With a little imagination many other types of deterrents can be thought up, and many of these methods will and do apply to other pond predators that we deal with world wide. What deters a heron will probably deter a pelican or crane as well. Some of these methods may even deter your next door neighbor! Now that I have your attention lets get to the “TOP 10 LIST” of heron deterrents!
• DECOYS/SCARECROWS – There are many types of decoys available to help deter the Great Blue Heron. There are owls, coyotes, snakes, and crocodiles but the most popular decoy is a fake Great Blue Heron. The decoy is shaped, colored, and decorated to appear like a small 30”H GBH. The theory is that herons like to hunt alone; and this is true when it is a smaller body of water like a backyard pond. However, if a larger heron sees a smaller heron hunting pond side there is nothing that will keep the bigger bird from chasing away the smaller bird from the hunting grounds. I have seen video of a rather large Great Blue Heron beating the heck out of a decoy, and the real heron won! All things considered, even if the fake little heron decoy keeps the hungry real life heron away from your pond even just once or twice, then it is money well spent. A good thing to do also is to move the decoy heron to different areas from time to time so it is not too easy for the real GBH to figure out it is looking at a mannequin of itself. Other decoys available are owl decoys, wide eyed and freaky looking, some of them even come with sound effects and moving parts; these would be the most effective decoy, but it will also scare away other more desirable birds from your pond too! I’ve seen decoy coyotes that can help as well. Remember the idea is to have a multi level approach to keeping the heron away, and a fake snarling coyote near the pond (not necessarily next to) may save the day for you. Remember if it works even once, it is money well spent. Another great decoy to use is an artificial koi, called “de-koi”, these life size and realistic looking koi fish can be tethered in your pond to float just below water surface. When a heron is hunting your pond it will try to work as little as possible for its meal, and when it sees that big juicy koi just hovering there like easy pickins’, the heron will likely attack the de-koi which creates an alert to the real fish that can now go into hiding with the presence of a predator brought to their attention. The de-koi is a brilliant last defense for your koi, the down side is that the GBH has to be IN your pond for it to work. The Scarecrow is not a straw filled, flannel shirted, wide brimmed hat, man on a stick; no, the Scarecrow is a motion activated mechanism that points to its target and shoots a sudden and startling burst of water at or in the direction of what ever is moving around your pond, including YOU! They can be very effective the first few times which makes them a good investment. This heron deterrent also should be moved around the pond to keep any persistent predators surprised at the blast of water. This is a good deterrent to have in your arsenal of defenses. Approx. cost $45.00 – $120.00
• SHADOW/SILHOUETTE CUT OUTS – We’ve all seen the shadow cutout of the leaning cowboy, or the even more popular German Shepard cut outs that are used to keep geese away from municipal, golf course ponds, or even open fields. Well, why shouldn’t koi pond owners use them too? A cut out can go a long way in protecting your pond from predators and it does not even need to be next to the pond. Strategically place the cut out in an area of proximity to the pond that you are sure will be seen by the heron while it is scouting out your pond. This cut out should give the bird enough doubt about the area being safe to hunt that it will likely choose to move on to another hunting ground that does not have the shadowy outline of a large dog standing close by. Approx. cost $120.00
• PLANTINGS – Let nature do the work. Some strategic landscaping can help to limit access to your pond. In areas that it will look aesthetically appealing pick some landscape plants or bushes that can also act as a border around your pond to make access from some sides difficult. Herons are very cautious and seem to prefer areas that offer easy access and quick get away potential. The right landscape plants can offer your koi and pond fish protection, enhance the beauty of your landscape, and create habitat for more desirable critters. Win-win. Approx cost $60.00+
• DEPTH/SIZE – If your pond is less than 24” deep, you may have unknowingly become the proprietor of your neighborhoods “Great Blue Sushi Bar”. Smaller prefab ponds or ponds that are not excavated deep enough to keep fish are easy for the GBH to clean out in no time. Most herons will not hunt in water much deeper than 18” but let’s not make it too easy for them. If you are in the planning process of a pond, go deeper, go bigger, even if you think it may be deep and big enough, depth is one of the best ways to keep your beautiful koi safe and long lived. Herons are not diving birds, they spear their prey and if the fish can stay deep, they can stay away. Go deep and go big when planning or re-installing your pond. Approx. cost varies
• TUNNELS/CAVES – Caves and tunnels can be planned as part of your pond installation, and should be. An experienced pond builder will likely make a tunnel or cave as part of their design without it being requested. What professional pond builder would not want their ponds to be safe from predators? If they don’t suggest it, you should. Caves and tunnels also make your pond more interesting to watch and they add a great measure of built in safety for your fish; as well as a shady area to get out of that blaring summer sun. There are also “koi caves”, “koi castles”, etc. that can be put into your pond after it is built if your pond does not already have caves or tunnels. Approx. cost $40.00
• TALK RADIO – Ok, now here is my secret method. Talk radio. A Great Blue Heron will not usually want to get to close to an area that has human activity. Try leaving an outdoor radio left on by your pond while you are away from your pond. A GBH will not get too close to any area that has human voices chatting away, so any good news station or talk radio station will work very well at keeping our big blue friend away. If you really want to terrify the bird, put on The Howard Stern show, Great Blue Herons and most local wildlife may never return! (j.k. love ya Howard!) Approx. cost $15.00
• PREDATOR CALLS – On one hand they are hilarious, and I have found it is a great way to scare not just herons but daughters too. Yes that’s right, a motion activated predator call broadcaster. Broadcasting the sound of calls from various land predators and birds of prey is a technique that has been used by wineries and other agricultural industries to keep away pesky crows and other critters that want to eat their crops. Now small models are available that can be installed close to your pond. Let the neighbors try to figure out why growling noises and screams from large birds of prey keep coming from your general direction, the GBH does not have time for that and the first call will have him high tailing it out of the vicinity of your pond! Approx. Cost $90.00+
• FISHING LINE/NETTING – Steal a technique from koi breeders and farmers. Many koi breeders and farmers will use fishing line crossed over the pond to prevent the Great Blue Heron from entering the pond. A clear 30# test to 50# test fishing line strategically criss-crossing your pond is a very effective way to keep the bird out of your pond, or at the very least it makes it extremely difficult for the GBH to maneuver in your pond causing the bird to be frustrated and panicked, alerting your fish to the predators presence. The fishing line is nice because it is not very visible and makes for a great way to baffle the Great Blue Heron. Creating a simple grid of fishing line over the surface or main entry points of the pond is inexpensive, and easy to set up. Installing netting over the surface of your pond is by far the most effective means of protecting your pond, and probably the least aesthetic. And not even netting is 100% protection; herons will walk out onto the netting and try to spear the fish anyway, only to lose them because they can’t get the fish through the mesh. The injuries from spearing can and does kill fish, so the pond owner is still losing fish but at least knows that the heron did not GET the meal. Netting comes in various mesh sizes, colors, and materials. Some netting can be almost invisible when well installed. Black netting with a 1” mesh pulled tight does not look too bad. I am not a big fan of the reflective tape for a backyard pond, maybe a piece or two. However; for ponds located in more open areas or where aesthetics aren’t imperative, the use of reflective tape around a pond can be very effective. This type of tape also deters geese, ducks, and other types of water fowl that may not be wanted in your pond. Reflective tape is usually attached to stakes at about 24” high. The stakes are located around the perimeter of the pond. Approx. cost $3.00 to $30.00+
• AERATORS/SURFACE AGITATORS – Aeration in a pond serves many purposes that benefit the health of the pond and the fish. But consider another use for an aerator as a way to obscure the view into your pond. The less visible the inside of your pond is, the less interest it will stir in a heron to investigate your pond. Aerators can be put on timers to run while you’re away for the day. Every little thing helps, and you get the health benefits of the additional oxygen into your pond. Approx. cost $60.00+
• BE A HUMAN/GET A DOG – Let’s face it humans make most animals on this planet nervous. Humans make me a little nervous, and I’m pretty human. With a heron use your humanity to your advantage, it’s our 3 lb brain against their little walnut right? So what scares a heron? Size and noise, so show them who’s boss. Extend your arms and wave them, you now appear bigger to the heron. Yell “Hey!”, don’t use expressions like “get outta here!” or “go away”, they don’t know what it means, it takes longer to say, and it cannot be said as forcefully as “Hey!”. “Hey!” is one syllable and can be said with force. If all us humans say “Hey!” then herons will learn that word means threat. If they feel threatened, they are less likely to return. Or, have you been looking for a good excuse to get that dog you’ve been wanting. Most dogs will offer great heron deterrence. The Great Pyrenees has been touted as a great protector of ponds. Maybe some day a new breed the “Koi Shepard” will be created. Who knows? Approx. cost FREE, adopt from you local humane society
With your creativity there are numerous other deterrents for the Great Blue Heron that will keep them away from your backyard pond. If you have some ideas, not involving guns, nooses, or bare handed throttling; share them here. Herons can be persistent but they can also be deterred. Sometimes your pond may have to go through a period of having various methods of deterrence around it but with time, and with the herons ability to learn that it is not welcomed at your pond; many of these devices/methods can be reined back a bit. It is better to rely on several means of predator deterrent rather than choosing just one. Most choices are very easy to set up or deal with, and some of them are comical at times. And remember to use a multi level deterrent plan. Oh, what we do for our fish!
All copy rights to this material is soley owned by Mike Gannon.