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Galahs! Kikuyu Starches
Why do they do it and how do you stop them?
How do I stop the galahs and other birds ripping up my lawn? We get this question often and usually from those with Kikuyu lawns.
Let’s start by looking at why it’s occurring in the first place.
Kikuyu lawns are the main target for galahs as their rhizomes contain a sugary starch. Other lawn varieties like buffalo, zoysia and couch that don’t contain as much starch are mostly left alone.
One particular delicacy they enjoy is the starchy underground runners beneath the surface of your lawn, particularly those in Kikuyu lawns. The problem is that galahs need to dig around and rip at the grassroots to pull them out.
After the birds are finished, you will often see the runners scattered along the top of the lawn after they have been ripped up.
Grubs and beetle
It is important to check if you have any grubs or beetle larvae within the soil, these are a tasty snack that will attract birdlife. These are usually birds like magpies or crows that feed on grubs and beetles.
For the most part the birds are actually a blessing here as they will help to keep the grubs under control. If these grubs get out of hand, they can do quite a bit of damage, so the birds are doing you a favour and the damage the birds themselves cause is usually minimal.
Do I need to take action?
You can leave them to it and your lawn will be just fine. That’s our first recommendation. However, that birds have become more than just an inconvenience and are terrorising your lawn destructively, then there are a few things you can try to keep them at bay.
Fake Owls or Hawks
A common method many people look at is the use of fake predator birds like owls or hawks. Birds can be smart and figure it out very quickly, so to improve the deception look at moving the owl every few days. Also, best to not put it in an obvious position as real owls do not like to be seen too easily.
This fake owl also has eyes that flash and it makes a hooting sound when the motion sensor is activated.
Fake snakes are another popular method to use to help keep birds away. If kept in the one place over a few days, they can work out that they are fake. So, try moving them to different areas in the garden every day. We have also heard that placing a whirligig near a fake snake can make birds become nervous and uneasy when near your lawn.
Traditional scarecrows have had some success in deterring galahs and other birds away. The more human-like they look the more likely they are to stay away from the lawn. You will need to move the scarecrow around every few days in order for them to be effective. We have also heard that changing the scarecrow’s clothes every so often helps make it more effective.
If the birds are hungry, try enticing them to stop picking at your lawn with a better food option. Place a bowl of bird grain and seed or fruit and vegetables such as apple and carrot and see if they prefer this over your lawn.
Motion Sensor Irrigation
There are also some irrigation products with motion sensors available as well.
Motion-activated sprinklers can detect bird movement on the lawn and quickly jet a stream of water at the target area. The sound of the sprinkler turning on combined with the water will frighten them away quickly and harmlessly with only a couple of cups of water required before it turns off again.
There are products you can spray on your lawn that the birds won’t like the taste of. They usually contain the active Aluminium Ammonium Sulphate like this one here by Multicrop called Scat.
The active provides a bitter taste that the birds don’t like but it is completely safe and won’t harm the birds. You can also source alum and mix it up with water yourself, with one teaspoon per litre the advised mix rate.
Other spray mixes we have seen people try include weak black tea and wasabi, all with mixed results for effectiveness.
We are yet to see a method that is 100% effective, but hopefully one of these methods or a combination of all of them will work for you.
For more lawn care advice, check out our other blogs here.