Birds are attacking my Tomato Plants

floridagirl_2121May 19, 2008

Haven't gardened since I was a girl, started 3 tomato plants, every time a tomato turns red the birds will sneak in and pick a perfect round hole in them, this is the 4th tomato they've hit, any ideas? Can I wrap them in paperbags to hide the red color? Is the sun needed to actually ripen them? Stupid question I know. Also there's this weird fungus type look to about 1/25 of my leaves, I trimmed them off mostly but feel I might have done more damage to the poor things than anything else, not sure what is safe to even spray on them and you know how hard it is to find some kind of tomato plant expert at lowe's or home depot, they don't exist. Any ideas would help me alot.

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I am going to try this on my plants. I read if you attach red tomato-sized christmas ornaments (I bought shiny plastic ones)to your plants before the tomatoes turn red, the birds will peck the ornaments and by the time the real tomatoes ripen, they will have given up messing with them. I have no idea yet if it works, but I'm going to try it in the next few weeks - my plants are still small yet.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 9:23PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Many of us pick them as they begin to "blush" (show color) and let them complete ripening on the kitchen counter just to avoid this problem. ;) Once the ripening process begins on the vine it will finish inside just fine as the plant forms a membrane between the stem and the fruit to seal it off as it has all it needs from the plant.

Only other alternative is bird netting over the plants or a shotgun.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 9:26PM
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timmy1(6a ri)

Bet it's crows!

Shoot one and hang it out there. The others will go elsewhere.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 9:58PM
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Floridagirl, is shooting birds an option for you as recommended above? Do you have a gun? Any neighbors that may object? Or little children? Laws that make it illegal to shoot off weapons where you live? Do you blast the birds while they are on the tomato plant or wait until they fly away. The birds I have are pretty darn quick and the neighbor's house is nearby. What is your situation?

Here in Fl. I have mockingbirds and small little finch-types eating tomatoes. Lots of them. Wonder how I would go about shooting those little tiny guys? Shotgun, maybe??? That way maybe I will hit something if I just aim at the tomato plant and let 'er go. Wonder how many birdies I can kill before they cart my a-- off to jail?

I had big problems with birds in past years. I tried a red ornament--afraid it didn't work for me. But doesn't hurt to try.

I finally took a small square of newspaper and clothespinned it over the ripening tomato. Worked great. The clothespin was not so tight that it restricted the stem.
I have also left out tomatoes I did not want on a platform placed high atop a cage.

This past season I had NO bird damage whatsoever on a huge crop of tomatoes--so it must depend on the weather. Try putting out of bird bath as well--damage seems worse in a drought.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 11:07AM
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ssimon2000(7 - Central Oklahoma)

If you have any old CDs (like the ones AOL used to send out), string a few together around your tomatoes. The light reflecting from them will confuse and scare the birds away.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 11:22AM
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pepete2(7 KY)

I've always heard birds pecking holes in tomatoes were after water.

Try the birdbath.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 4:00PM
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Drat! I thought the red ornament might be one of those ideas that sound great in theory, but....And animals are way smarter than I give them credit for. Probably will give the birds a good laugh!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 4:27PM
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Bet it's penguins!

Tie a polar bear in the back yard, the others will go elsewhere.


FG, they really are looking for water. Put a pan of water out for them, and go to something like Home Depot and get bird net. I had the same problem you are having a few years back, until a smart person told me what to do.

Now it's our pet yard squirrels. I just plant enough cherry tomatoes that there's plenty to go around. Solved the problem.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 4:48PM
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I could not find a nice round red ornament at the time so I used a fake pomegranate. :) Thinking the birds wouldn't know the difference--red is red, right?. Of course they communicated to each other that a dumb lady had hung a fake pomegranate--laughing as they eyed the ripening real fruit.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 10:54PM
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I have some ideas for you. At my garden place they have some thing called Tomato Sentry nets. They are overpriced. I got a bag to see how they work. Round circle net, holes punched around the circle, cord weaved in and out through holes. How easy is that to make! So I went up to hobby store got a bag of round circle nets for wedding favor bags, cording...11 bucks for 80 bags.
Another thing I did also was go to dollar store and buy some packs of organza bags. They work great too! I have to keep birds and leafhoppers off.
So this works, if the tomatoes are too big for bags, I also do what some above said..pull at first color. Windowsill them, but have heard you can put in paper bag to ripen quicker. Yea, I am a big talker....I missed a beautiful, ripe Juanne Flamme...the birds got it...

About them wanting water...not sure about that as I have thousands of gallons of water in my pool and they never get it.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 11:13PM
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North Florida here.

I have the same problem. I pick as soon as the bottom starts to turn pink. It seems that there is a two hour window between the tomatoes starting to show color and the birds pecking them.

I forgot about the bird bath idea. I had that on my list of things to try this year.

This year it has been the worms doing all the damage. 9 out of every 10 tomatoes that have started to turn red so far have been due to a big worm hole. About two nice tomatoes, 5 or so salvegable, and almost 20 ruined.

Good luck

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 8:25AM
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Have you tried monofilament, (fishing), line? Use the clear variety, threading it above the plant spaced about a foot apart over the plants. The birds cannot see it and their wings hit it. I hear they do not come back. I have not tried this myself, but heard of this approach and some claim it works well.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 1:15PM
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I would say try a bird bath to give them an alternate water source and then bird netting . Berry growers have this problem and this is the solution.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 1:34PM
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I'm hoping a fake Owl I have mounted on a pole. It's in a Xmas tree holder so I can move it around.

I got late start this year and have none ripening yet.

I also found these brightly colored twisted plastic pieces about an inch wide and hung them off of some of the cages. The slightest breeze makes em spin and throw light spots all around the plants.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2008 at 2:13AM
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Bird baths help birds stop pecking tomatoes just for water, but even with a water source handy, mocking birds actually eat my tomatoes until sometimes I'm left with just an empty tomato skin hanging on the vine with all the insides eaten out.

Here's my solution for birds pecking tomatoes: I use a homemade rabbit trap to trap the tomato eating birds and release them elsewhere. The trap is better than shooting birds because you only trap the birds that actually peck your tomatoes and don't remove innocent birds.

My trap is a typical homemade, wire cage rabbit trap with a sliding door on one end connected to a trip stick in the center of the trap. When the rabbit enters the trap, he hits the stick and releases the door and traps himself.

To catch birds instead of rabbits, I tie a piece of red tomato to the lower end of the trip stick. When the bird comes in and pulls on the tomato piece to eat it, he trips the stick and you have a trapped bird which you can release elsewhere.

Trapping birds works best early in the growing season when your very first tomatoes begin turning red. Basically, if the only red tomato in your garden is the one inside the trap, then the birds will greedily go for it.

I immediately caught four mockingbirds the first time I used my rabbit trap technique and released them several miles away. After that, I only had maybe three or four tomatoes pecked the entire summer (verses about a three ruined tomatoes per day the year before).

The trap also works for rabbits. A half ear of corn is good bait, but don't lay the bait on the floor of the trap or you'll catch lots of ants. Hang (suspend) the bait from the roof of the trap to keep ants off it. You might even discover that neighborhood cats love corn also.

Thanks all, CharlieCom

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 2:12PM
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rker321(Zone 9)

New at tomato planting, have planted three tomato plants in containters in my patio. have great fruit. but now some of the tomatoes have small round holes, don't know if they are birds eating them. or some other pests. The leaves are healthy, no spots or anything on them. Please advise as to how would I know that it is.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 11:01AM
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After birds started eating my beautiful tomatoes, I constructed a frame with home depot bird netting stapled to it. That stopped the birds, but lizards got trapped/died. That is teriible, cutting rotting lizards from the net. I won't do that again!!!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 7:00AM
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