Herons are magnificent birds, but they can cause issues for fish owners who have open outdoor ponds. Once a heron has found a spot for a quick, easy snack, it will continue visiting that spot repeatedly. It doesn’t help that they’re pretty stubborn by nature, so it isn’t easy to get them to stay away when they know there are fish that are ripe for the picking.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled all our best suggestions into one article so you can pick the best heron deterrent for ponds on your property.
The Best Heron Deterrent For Ponds
The state of our wildlife is already hanging in the balance. And there’s nothing worse than checking on your fish to discover that half of them have been pinched, especially when they are expensive ornamental varieties like Koi Carp. As we mentioned, getting herons to clear off forever isn’t easy – but there are plenty of measures you can take to try and protect your pond moving forwards. Find out the best ways to protect your pond from a visiting heron below.
Position Your Pond Strategically
This tip is no help if you’ve already built your pond, but if you are still drawing up your plans, pay attention! Although herons are large birds, they are still scared of humans and usually fly away as soon as they spot anyone coming close, making you the ultimate heron deterrent for ponds.
Use this fact to your advantage and build your pond closer to your house. Generally, they will avoid hunting where humans are likely to appear. But, if you’ve become enemies with a particularly determined heron, read on.
Plant Shrubs For Protection
Herons are very aware of their surroundings. They may be too wary of hidden predators to bother fishing there if their hunting grounds are overgrown and concealed. As a bonus, planting shrubbery around your pond is great for your local environment and will attract a lot of beneficial wildlife. A drawback of this is that you won’t have good visibility of your pond, and other animals like cats may decide to take their chances.
When you feed pond food to your fish, you should make sure to do it in an area with denser foliage or close to hiding places so that they aren’t exposed.
Provide Underwater Hiding Places
Providing shelter in the water is one way that you can help your fish protect themselves against attacks from herons and other predators. Hideouts and pond plants are good to include in their habitats even if a heron isn’t hunting your fish, so this should be a priority. Some ideas for hiding places include:
Fish shelters – you can buy a variety of fish shelters from retailers. You may need to weigh some shelters down, and others are already weighted. There are plenty of designs that blend into the environment, but you should make sure to choose one that is relatively heavy to stop predators (or panicking pond fish) from knocking it over.
DIY shelters – If you don’t want to buy shelters, you can submerge a bucket or PVC pipe at the bottom of your pond and surround it with rocks to weigh it down and help it to blend in.
Aquatic plants – Submerged oxygenating plants are fantastic for the pond’s health and make an excellent place for fish to hide. Floating plants like water lilies will help to conceal your fish from the surface. Be careful to do your research and make sure the plants that you choose are safe for your fish.
When designing your pond, be mindful that you leave space for fish to swim freely. Also, when you feed pond food to your fish, you should make sure to do it in an area with denser foliage or close to hiding places so that they aren’t exposed.
Use Pond Netting
Pond netting is the obvious solution for anyone wanting to deter herons and other animals, and it keeps leaves and debris from falling in. However, some pond owners choose to avoid using it because it doesn’t look great, which has some downfalls. When you don’t professionally or securely install your netting, there is always a chance that it can slip, and if it rips, it can be a pain to replace. As well as this, other wildlife can get trapped in the net, which can be dangerous if they aren’t found and released in time.
Set Up Decoys
Herons are lone wolves and are rarely, if ever, seen in pairs. By this logic, if they see another heron feeding in a particular spot, they will turn their backs on it and go elsewhere. You can purchase cost-effective heron decoys to go at the side of your pond, and this can be enough to keep the real thing away. It’s important to note that herons aren’t scared of other herons, though, and they may notice if the fake one hasn’t moved over time, so this isn’t a foolproof solution.
Herons tend to hunt in slow-moving or still water that is easy to see through. Causing ripples can make it a lot harder for them to hunt accurately.
Aerate the water – Aerating or adding a pump to the water keeps it flowing, making pond fish harder to spot.
Water fountain – Using water fountain features in the pond will cause enough ripples to disrupt the water.
Foam balls – A more cost-effective way of causing ripples is to disrupt the surface tension with foam balls. The downside is that they will rely on the wind pushing them around to work effectively.
Dig A Deeper Pond
If possible, dig a deeper pond and make the sides vertical. Herons usually wade into ponds and rivers to find fish, and although they can plunge-dive, they are unlikely to do so in a smaller area of water. However, remember that doing this will make other wildlife shy away and make escape difficult for any animals that fall in.
Why Are Herons Bad For Garden Ponds?
Herons are bad for garden ponds because they can completely empty a pond of fish in one sitting. With a relatively small population of 9.5k~ in the UK[i], it can be unusual to have a heron problem, especially if you live in a built-up area. But if one is attracted to a pond, it can be bad news for collectors with very expensive or rare fish.
What Do Herons Eat?
The herons’ diet mainly consists of fish, but they will also eat smaller amphibians, mammals, and insects. Herons may even eat smaller birds occasionally.
Are Herons Protected?
Herons are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981[ii]. You can be fined or even get a prison sentence for killing a heron or trying to kill a heron. For this reason, you must ensure all heron deterrents don’t have the potential to hurt herons.
Will A Heron Keep Coming Back?
Once a heron finds a reliable food source, it will keep reappearing. This is why it’s so important to put up heron deterrent for ponds before you have an encounter with the predatory birds, or as soon as you notice one hanging around your pond. They are very determined birds who will go to great lengths to get to your fish.
Read more: How to Create the Perfect Wildlife Garden Design