How to Stop Herons Eating Your Fish Out of the Pond
Learn how to deter herons visiting your pond for breakfast.
Herons and egrets hunt with silence, precision, and patience. They can stand still for what seems like hours waiting for a frog or fish to cross within striking distance, and then nab it without hesitation. The availability of a backyard fish pond means there’s an easy meal for a heron. No longer does he have to sit for hours to catch a meal, as the koi or goldfish in a pond are much easier pickings. However, if a large wild bird eating your pond fish is not a welcomed backyard bird addition, here are some tips and tricks for how to stop herons eating your fish out of the pond.
Add a floating alligator decoy to your pond. This hand painted alligator with reflective red eyes will have even human visitors doing a double take. Water movement or wind will move this head around the pond and keep other predators out including herons and egrets. The fish get comfortable with the head as they quickly learn it’s harmless.
No, clothes stuffed with straw will not deter herons. But The Scarecrow by Contech will. It is an automatic sprinkler that sprays a hard burst of water when motion is detected. Set it up in the corner of the yard pointed towards the pond and when any predator comes to dine, whether it’s a raccoon, egret, or heron, it sprays them with water.
Herons are solitary hunters. If they see a heron in a pond, they will move on to less crowded hunting grounds. Adding a heron decoy or statue can make your pond seem crowded to a real heron, but only if you move your decoy daily. A real heron will soon learn that your plastic heron does not move and is not a real competitor for food.
Incorporate predator defense in your pond design. Herons don’t swim, but rather must wade into water to hunt. Make the water deep in the middle or at one end and fish can easily swim out of reach of the hunting heron. Put ledges and other places for your fish to hide under. Fish instinctively know to get away from predators. A heron’s shadow should have them swimming to safer waters. Also, herons prefer hunting in open waters. Build a gazebo over your pond and you make the pond less enticing to herons and egrets and may even cut down on pond algae growth.
Herons are Protected by Law
You should know that herons and other native U.S. birds are federally protected. Causing harm to or killing these birds is a federal offense. Your goldfish are not more important than migratory birds in the eyes of the law. Egrets and herons are also important to the ecosystem as they also eat mice and insects. How you stop herons eating your fish can and should only be done using deterrents and with savvy pond design.
An Interesting Fact About Heron Hunting
Herons are common predators at fish hatcheries. However, researchers have found that herons, like most predators, “ate mostly diseased fish that would have died shortly anyway. Sick fish spent more time near the surface of the water where they were more vulnerable to the herons,” according to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. So if you have a well-designed pond with deep waters and hiding places for your fish, but a heron is still devouring your pond fish, you may need to evaluate the health of your pond environment and the fish.
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