Do Scarecrows Actually Work?

If you love gardening, you probably also appreciate most of the birds that come to hang out. But, unfortunately, some birds can also become a bit of a pest – especially if you are growing the type of plants or fruits that they like to feast on.  So finally, you’ve come to the point where you are wondering, “do scarecrows work”? And yes, they do, but their effectiveness depends on a few things.

Yes, scarecrows can actually work

Scarecrows are an age-old technique used to deter birds from areas such as crops or ponds as they literally scare birds away. You may also hear people refer to a scarecrow as a type of effigy.  Most scarecrows are human-shaped and made from inexpensive materials like old clothes stuffed with material such as straw.

However, people may also use other types of effigies to scare off birds. For example, a predator mimicking device in the form of an owl will scare off certain birds.

Although scarecrows really scare birds, the effectiveness of doing so depends on many factors. Some aspects you can control, such as creating a more realistic human-like scarecrow, but many factors are unfortunately out of your control.

Type of scarecrow

Studies have proven that the impact of a human-like scarecrow is higher the more realistic its facial features and body shape are. Even painting the scarecrow in brighter colors scare birds off even more.

Other studies have proven that a pop-up scarecrow was also highly effective in scaring off birds. In one of these studies, the human-like mannequin was occasionally lurched upwards using a double propane cannon. In this specific study, this scarecrow effectively protected four-to-six acres of sunflowers against blackbirds. 

However, not enough studies have been done to prove whether the birds eventually returned after becoming used to this human-like figure.

Birds will quickly get used to a static scarecrow, so move it at least once a week. Also,  be prepared to devote regular time to giving your scarecrow a makeover if you are planning on using one to scare away birds.

Think about swapping out its colorful clothes for new outfits, attach reflective tape, add noise making devices and give your scarecrow extra features. Ideally, you’ll change up a feature every single day.

You can also consider giving your scarecrow a prop like a pitchfork or even just glasses made out of some wire.

Species of birds

While all birds will be slightly wary of the sudden appearance of a human-like figure, the fact of the matter is that some birds are more easily scared away by scarecrows than others. Studies have been done that proved that in certain instances, ducks and geese were scared off more easily than blackbirds in certain instances.

Over time, some species of birds were also quicker to get used to the scarecrow and returned to the area sooner than other types of birds.

While it’s impossible to predict how the different species of birds will react in your own environment, don’t be surprised if it seems that your scarecrow is only effective at keeping certain birds away. Overall, scarecrows are pretty effective for pest birds if you go the extra mile of making sure your scarecrow is moved around.

Time period

You’ve probably realized by now that birds are more intelligent and sneakier than you might have expected. So while a scarecrow might be effective at first, over time birds start realizing that this figure won’t harm them, so they return to the field, pond, or your garden.

The time it took for birds to get used to the scarecrow, if at all, is also influenced by factors such as species of birds. In some cases, birds won’t be deterred at all. For example, if their feeding patterns are so well established, even the perfect scarecrow’s appearance might have little effect.

Other types of scarecrows

If you don’t feel like giving a straw scarecrow a makeover once a week or a human-like scarecrow hasn’t proved to be effective at all, there are many other options you can try to ward off birds.


Using lasers to deter birds is still a relatively new field. However, so far, experiments have shown that the effectiveness of lasers depends on the laser’s color and the type of species.

In reality, this meant that using lasers as a way to scare off birds had no effect on some birds but was highly effective as a repellent to others.


Dogs have been used at airports to scare off birds. However, some studies have had mixed results with using dogs however, overall, it does seem to be an effective measure. Nevertheless, researchers have cautioned that more experimental research is needed.

Lights and Mirrors

Airports have experimented with lights and mirrors to deter birds, but although there could be a practical application for this method, more detailed studies need to be done. It’s unlikely that setting up any additional lights and mirrors in your garden will have as much of an effect as a scarecrow that you move around from time to time.

Reflecting tape

Researchers haven’t had much luck with using reflective tape to scare off birds. While in the future, studies might prove otherwise, in the meantime, using reflective tape to protect your garden will most likely only lead to wasted effort and tape.

Overhead wires

Overhead wires have proved to be a very effective deterrent in keeping birds from destroying crops. If you only have a small area or pond that you would like to protect against birds, using overhead wires could be an excellent solution for you.

This option isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing in most cases, and wire can also be costly. So you might be better off trying to make a scarecrow from recycled material first.

Digital scarecrows

These days there are plenty of high-tech solutions on the market, including digital scarecrows. These solar-powered digital contraptions detect nearby animals with an infrared eye and ward them off with a harmless supersonic wave.

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