Ok, pond owners this is the time of year that we all have to start our vigilance and watch out for herons showing up at out pond. Late winter is always the time of year that the herons start making their patrols in search of that easy meal, of our beloved pets, from our ponds. We all get a bit complacent this time of year in checking our ponds but now is the time to start being a bit more aware of our ponds presence to local herons.
When dealing with heron visits use all means possible as they are very smart birds. A great means of keeping away this pond predator is by use of natural means. Do I mean planting around your pond to limit access? Well, yes, but I also want to suggest something not so often considered in natural predator control. How about the fact that birds all happen to be very territorial. In the northeast United States and other parts a very common bird is the Blue Jay, who happens to be a VERY territorial little bugger, much to the backyard koi pond and water garden owner’s advantage.
We’ve probably all seen at on time or another a mid-air battle between a group of little birds and a sole bigger bird. All the little birds swarm the bigger bird, dive bombing, picking at, feather nipping, head pecking, and chasing; not too mention if you listen, screaming at the bigger bird. These birds, although smaller, mean business and are usually very successful at removing the large invader from their territory. When one tunes in, the politics of the bird world, they pretty much are always chasing each other and trying to dominate territories.
So what does all that fighting do for my pond? What does it do for your pond? Unfortunately this is really not about your pond so much as it is about setting up a desirable area for blue jays to come and nest and defend a territory in your yard, CLOSE to your pond. I am, by luck, fortunate enough to happen to have blue jays that nest in my yard, not because I had enticed them, but simply happened to be the blue jays choice.
I have battled the herons for years now, but came to realize that when the heron was showing up at my pond, the blue jays nesting in my backyard were going absolutely nuts! Screaming like crazy, flashing from tree to tree to tree, screaming!, and blue jays might be small and pretty, but those birds have some lungs, and can really reach some decibels. I have to admit, it took me several times to realize that the reason they were going nuts is that a huge predator, the heron, which WILL prey on other birds, was right in their territory and the blue jays did not know or care that the heron was there for my fish!
I have found the blue jays to be very effective indicators of something going wrong in my backyard, and when I hear them sounding off, I go running to see why my blue jays have gotten their feathers ruffled, and they usually are passing me some pretty good info, and I have thwarted several visits by my local heron thanks to my blue jays.
So, yes, use all the means you can to keep the predators for taking your prized pond fish; but don’t be shy about relying on your neighborhood birds to help predator control too and they can be easily enticed to living right in your yard!
Ironically, on a side note I have very much the same reaction to predatory herons in my yard as birds. I run from room to room screaming at the heron…
This is good to know. I have lots of small birds and have seen a couple of blue jays around here as well. Unfortunetly I have also seen a heron visit the pond in the field behind my house and the creek at the end of our road , many times . We also have seen the odd fox and raccoon now and then.
The blue jays as part of your protection prgram can be a great help at times.
Mike I don’t know if this will help you or if you even like the idea ..BUT if it saves fish it is worth it…..Heron hate to stand on uneven , unsure footing. they are fishers, not swoopers. so being able to stand close to where they can see the fish and then spear one is best for them….what is said to be a great help is to make the edges as uneven and rocky as possible. Gravel and small stones work great because heron hate the feel of these on thier feet. They will not stand where there is gravel or small rocks, what they like is a smooth surface , so we have to make it as uncomfortable for them as possible. In nature they stand in inches of water silently still ,until something comes by then they spear the prey. When there is no place they can stand to fish it is very difficult for them to grab anything . Now I know from my experience it is almost impossible not to have some sort of ledges where they can wait ….but sprinkle some gravel on them and make them even more uncomfortable and they don’t seem to want to stand there for very long. Someone also mentioned Raccoons….this is more a problem for us as we have so many around the pond. When I first put a pond in I was ignorant of thier habits …and they ate all of our fish in one night it was a sushi buffet just waiting for them. Then I did my research! They are fastidious animals and wash everything as they eat……but..they are terrible swimmers. So if your pond is over 2 feet deep, they cannot swim and fish at the same time …problem solved,so the shallow viewing pond is harmful for the Koi’s health and safety, also don’t give them a place to sit and wait on the edge for a Koi to go by where they can grab at it and they will have a hard time fishing for dinner. If you put in a Japanese bridge like we did it has to be high enough off the surface to avoid thier reach into the water also. We have every predator known including Bald Eagles and Cormorants….they are both swoopers and divers and when them come in your out of luck….the only answer for them is great tree cover….makes for a bitch of a clean up…..and lots of sludgebuster bacterial additives ..but is so worth it in camo….
Hey Jerry, sounds like wild kingdom where you live!! Thanks for adding those excellent tips on predators and yes, even if it saves one fish from having their home turned into sushi bar du jour, the tips are worth it. I always recommend a multi-level defense approach for predators, including using tree cover….and plenty of sludge buster!
Great points Mike! As a followup to your article, I was wondering how to attract blue jays. They are indigenous to my area, so supply is great. I’d like to be able to suggest this tip to my customers that come into our store with detailed how to’s
Thanks for commenting and checking out the blog! Blue Jays are very shy of people and tend to be skittish about getting in too close but with patience and persistence they will learn to come around. The like to eat off of platforms as opposed to a covered feeder or tube feeder. Peanuts are a great way to attract the blue jays. Of course offering a bathing area like a waterfall will not only attract the Jays but many other birds. In my waterfall it can get pretty comical at times how many birds literally line up to splash around in the waterfall. Many species will be attracted to water, but peanuts is a good attractant for the Blue Jays! thanks again. Mike