How to Stop Herons Eating Pond Fish (Top Deterrents Compared)
Deterring a heron from a pond it regularly visits can be tough, but there are a range heron pest control options available which could prove effective. Sometimes one method is enough, but for particularly stubborn herons, mixing various types of deterrents together may be the best solution. All the below recommendations will help heron proof your garden pond and provide extra protection for your pond fish.
1) Pond Netting
One of the best heron deterrent methods is to simply install a strong pond netting over your surface water. Both netting and covers will immediately deter most herons and will also add an extra layer of protection between them and your fish. Since herons need to physically reach into a pond to make catches, having a net over the surface makes stalking the fish much more difficult. It also prevents a heron wading into the pond water when fish begin to retreat further into the center.
Pond netting works well in both floating and raised forms, and will help stop herons entering the water so long as the netting is secured and maintained properly. Floating netting is sometimes preferred for stopping herons as it’s very discreet and there is less chance of the heron getting under it like with raised netting. Metal interlocking floating protectors have also become popular in recent years, and work very well for smaller ponds or along the edges of a larger pond to deter herons.
Unlike other deterrents which become less effective as a heron gets used to seeing it, pond netting creates a physical barrier that often stops herons before they’re able to get within striking distance. We recommend netting as a foundation to heron control, as it can be combined with various other deterrents for maximum protection from predators.
A great heron and cat deterrent which provides pond fish a safe hiding place at the bottom of your pond. Koi and goldfish shelters are designed to sit naturally on the pond floor and blend into the surroundings, helping to hide signs of fish. If you have a pond with no where for fish to hide, they’ll become very stressed every time a heron visits, even if the heron is unsuccessful at catching any fish. When frightened, pond fish will retreat to deeper parts of the pond for cover, but unless your pond is packed with plants or is very deep, they may not have adequate protection.
Fish shelters are a cost effective and easy way to create a durable cover system on the pond floor, giving both koi and goldfish somewhere to retreat and de-stress. They won’t scare away a heron, but they allow your fish a much better chance of not becoming easy heron food.
If you have a pond with no natural cover, especially if the pond is shallow, we recommend a fish shelter as this will make hunting much harder for predators. As they won’t directly deter herons, fish shelters are best mixed with other deterrents, such as pond netting, decoys, or automatic repellers (water or sound).
A second option to stop herons eating pond fish is to try to install pond fencing or wire around the perimeter of the pond. If you can stop herons from getting to the sides of the pond, they won’t be able to effectively hunt for fish. Although sometimes more effective than pond netting, fencing is more noticeable and harder to maintain. Using thin wiring for fencing is a popular middle-ground, as it’s strong enough to stop predators getting near the water but small enough to not be visually distracting.
An alternative type of fencing that is very effective at deterring even the most persistent heron is by surrounding your pond with low-voltage electric fencing. While a determined heron may get through some regular fencing, an electric fence will give them a small “shock” every time they touch it. This shock, although not dangerous, is plenty to scare even the most stubborn predators away. After a short time they’ll likely stop coming down altogether to seek fish elsewhere – it’s just not worth the shocked feathers!
Either choice of fencing would be fine for most ponds, but we would probably recommend regular fencing first as it’s cheaper and easier to install. If the heron continues to persist, you can then try upgrading to an electric type fence system. We recommend Veldas Pond Protector electric fencing products (pictured) which are available from the UK and have been designed with heron control in mind.
Since herons are skittish animals, they’ll not stick around long after something spooks them. One of the best ways to deal with a heron eating fish from a pond is to constantly scare them off as soon as they arrive. Luckily, there are a few kinds of automatic systems available which work with motion sensors to scare away different kinds of pests, and also work great for herons.
Automatic garden sprinklers work very well for cats, dogs, and even herons. Cats and herons in particular like to hunt prey slowly and silently, so any sudden movement will give them a scare. Automatic sprinklers can be fitted around the perimeter of your garden pond where herons like to fish, and they will automatically detect the birds movement and start spraying out water when it gets close.
The best brands, such as the ScareCrow sprinkler, can cover large distances with their water jets, so are suitable for both small and large garden ponds. They’re ideally placed alongside regular pond netting for maximum protection, but work very well on their own at deterring most predators from ponds.
Another type of automated sensor device is one that emits a sudden sound to scare animals away. Automatic sound repellents are useful for getting rid of flighty animals, and work well against all but the most stubborn of herons. They usually come in two form – one being a normal sound recording, and the other a low-pitched ultrasound device.
The first which just emits a loud noise works well for most pests, especially if the recording is something the animal is naturally weary about; such as gunshots or barking noises. The downside of this type of device is that they’re activated by motion sensors, so will go off whenever anything larger passes through the sensor. If you have pets or regular garden birds, this could prove quite frustrating if the noise keeps going off.
A second type of noise emitting device is one which emits a low-pitched ultrasound which humans can’t hear. The sound can only be picked up by the more sensitive ears of many animals and works well to deter dogs, cats, and herons. We found that this type of device works better for dogs and cats, with not all herons being particularly bothered by the noise. With that said, it’s very discreet, easy to install, and may be worth a shot if all else has failed at getting rid of a heron in your garden!
A popular solution which most pond owners have likely tried is with a decoy plastic heron model. Blue heron decoys and grey heron decoys are generally a very cheap and easy method of deterring a new heron from your garden.
Decoys rely on the idea that herons are solitary feeders and do not like eating in the company of other herons, so the fake heron should be enough to stop a real heron landing and feeding. This generally works very well for herons not used to the surroundings, but most herons will grow more bold over time and eventually begin to figure out the decoy isn’t a threat. With that said, some herons may not be deterred by decoys at all, as it all depends on the personality of the heron and whether or not it’s already become used to eating with company (or decoys) in other ponds.
If you live around gardens with other ponds with heron decoys, the herons in the area will more quickly become accustomed to seeing them and they’ll soon become less effective. Decoys work best for rural ponds, or when combined with other deterrent methods. A combination of heron decoy, pond netting, and automatic sprinkler/sound system would be a pretty effective deterrent for even the most persistent of predators.
Since heron decoys are generally a very cheap solution, it’s worth it to try one in your pond and hope for the best – you may get lucky and have a particularly anti-social heron who hates company!
Another decoy which works on a blue herons fear of predators is by using a realistic alligator decoy. These decoys are designed to mimic how an alligator swims through the water when hunting for prey, and since alligators are a blue herons natural predator, it can actually work very well as a deterrent. You can get models which are just the head, and also decoys which include a head with parts of the body and tail. The best alligator decoys we have found are full bodies decoys, although a realistic head decoy will do the trick in most situations.
Placing the decoy around the banks of the pond where a heron usually lands, or around pond plants (lilies), will create a more natural illusion of a hunting gator. Combining an alligator decoy with a pond net and automatic sprinkler/sound system will likely deter even the bravest of herons.
Since alligators are not native to the UK and Europe, these decoys are unlikely to work as well for grey herons, so we would only recommend alligator decoys for blue heron control.
Since the goal of most heron deterrents is to cause panic and scare the heron into flight, what better way than by showing them a picture of themselves! Although this is an often overlooked method of deterring herons, it actually works surprisingly well for smaller garden ponds. The mirror is typically mounted or placed on the opposite side of the pond where the heron lands, and as the heron approaches the water it will see its image appear in the mirror directly ahead. If there is little movement it may think it’s just another decoy, but as it gets closer the moving image may be enough to spook the heron away.
Having a mirror in the garden may sound odd, but it’s a method that can work better than actual decoys in some cases. Herons are intelligent birds, and the closer they get to a decoy, the more likely they are to notice it’s not the real thing. A mirror image of the heron itself with actual movement will likely confuse even the smartest of birds, and is a good alternative to regular decoys.
A large mirror opposite a small pond will give great coverage, with the heron being able to see its image from a wide range of directions. For a larger pond you would need a very wide mirror, or know exactly where the heron lands for correct placement. You would also need to keep the mirror cleaned and it good shape to ensure the image is clear, which can be difficult to do in a garden environment.
Overall, an interesting heron solution which may be worth a try in smaller ponds, but we would only really recommend this method when all other deterrents have failed.
Herons and Garden Ponds
Herons are a large family of wading bird species native throughout much of the western hemisphere. If you have a pond in the United States, it’s very likely you’ll have been visited by a blue heron at least once, especially if you have fish. Likewise, in the United Kingdom and Europe, grey herons often inspect local ponds and lakes in search of a catch. Both species of heron feed mostly on aquatic organisms, with their favourite dishes being small fish, frogs, and any large insects or larvae. Due to their diet, garden ponds are especially attractive to feeding grounds for heron, as both goldfish and koi are easy pickings for a full grown bird.
Even though they can be a nuisance to fish keepers and pond owners, both types of common heron are protected species. Grey herons are protected under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and killing herons can incur hefty fines and even a prison sentence. Likewise, blue herons are also protected in the United States, including their nests and breeding grounds, by both state and federal laws. These laws make it illegal to kill or capture the birds without a legal permit.
Are herons to blame for missing fish?
If you notice fish are disappearing from your pond but you’ve not seen a heron, this may because they tend to arrive very early in the morning or late in the evenings. Feeding at first and last night is generally safer, and they have less competition for food from other predators. Tell tale signs of heron activity would include feathers on the water, broken plants, torn netting, or injured fish (who just managed to get away).
Herons are also smart animals, and they quickly become accustomed to their surroundings and feeding grounds. Often herons will start arriving more and more frequently throughout the day if your pond is unprotected, as this is prime feeding for very little effort. Since herons are quite intelligent, it can be very difficult to dissuade them from eating your pond fish, especially if they’re already used to the surroundings. The best heron deterrent is often a mix of different approaches, stopping the birds becoming too “at home” and used to the things in your garden and pond.
Even though they can be very stubborn, and sometimes nothing will stop the most persistent of feeders, there are still things you can do to help deter them and increase the safely on your pond fish. Understanding more about herons in general and knowing what methods would work best with your pond is often the best approach.
Are herons solitary birds?
Herons are solitary animals and much prefer to feed alone than in the company of other herons. With that said, a heron which is accustomed to your garden pond where they know it’s safe to feed won’t likely hesitate to land next to another heron if they’re hungry. A heron that is used to visiting your garden alone may skip a few days visit if it notices another bird (or decoy) present, but it will quickly build confidence and start landing again soon. Even though they are solitary by nature, they will certainly not pass up an easy meal in company if it’s offered to them on a plate!