Cherry trees are widely grown for ornamental purposes, as shade trees, home fruit enjoyment and commercial fruit production. Early cherry tree varieties produce sweet edible fruits; later-season varieties produce tart cherries. A major pest of cherry trees for the home gardener and the commercial industry is birds. Birds enjoy consuming cherries in vast quantities.
Birds can cause the entire loss of a cherry crop in one season or consume the entire cherry fruit of a homeowner. It is estimated that 1 ton of cherries can be easily destroyed by 5,000 starlings in less then 10 days, according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Early Fruit Production
Cherry growers enjoy planting early cherry tree varieties for the sweet fruits that appear earlier on the market than other fruits. This offers the commercial grower more financial gains and it gives the home gardener a sweet early season fruit treat to enjoy. Birds also enjoy early cherry trees because they are usually quite hungry after a long winter of very little food to forage. Early cherry trees present a feast for the birds and draw them in large quantities from miles away.
Late Season and Yellow Cherries
Despite the appeal of the early cherry tree fruit production, birds also will stick around for late-season varieties and pose just as a big of a threat to the fruit production. Yellow cherries are normally ignored by birds until they gain a rosy glow and then they are quickly consumed.
Major Bird Pests
Early season cherries are normally attacked by grackles, robins, starlings and gulls. Late-season varieties draw an abundance of blackbirds, gulls, golden finches, starlings, robins, grackles and orioles. Birds tend to establish a feeding territory and only focus on that location, which is often a cherry orchard. The abundance of one bird species feasting will easily draw other species to the area.
Birds enjoy eating and then drinking. Planting cherry trees and orchards away from bodies of water will often lessen the appeal to the birds because they will be forced to fly greater distances to reach water. Birds also enjoy cherry trees that are planted near woodlands because the woodland area offers the birds a sense of protection.
Bird netting is often used to keep birds away from the cherries. The entire tree is covered in netting and a few species will balk at it because they will fear getting their feet stuck in the netting. Bolder birds will simply perch on the netting and feed on the cherries below by pecking them out. Noise deterrents such as propane-powered cannons work for a relatively short time by issuing a loud burst of random noise but the birds quickly become immune and ignore the noise. Metallic streamers and colorful balloons are often attached to the cherry tree to visually deter the birds from the trees.