birds eating pea vines?

leira(6 MA)June 19, 2009

I planted 2 types of snowpeas this year, one short and early, and the other taller and somewhat later.

The short vines have been producing nicely, and are unscathed.

The taller vines have reached about 4-5 feet, and have started producing...but the leaves at the top and the growing tips appear to have been eaten off. I've also found that any vines that haven't yet grabbed onto the trellis have been bent over, as if something landed on them or pulled them down. The bottoms of these vines, and any forming pea pods, remain untouched.

I've been wondering what could do this. This evening I looked out the window and saw a small bird sitting on the trellis and apparently picking at the top of one of the vines.

I didn't really expect birds to eat pea vines, especially after leaving them alone for the last 2 months. Has anyone else seen this? Is there any culprit other than birds that might eat the tall tips of pea vines, but no other part of the plant?

Is there anything I can do to stop it?


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Pests are the worst to have in your garden. I have a chipmunk problem of epic proportions. I live trap a whole bunch of the little buggers and take them somewhere far away from my garden. It's been helping.

I am not sure if you can live trap birds. One thing I am doing right now is using a my husband's super soaker squirt gun (a relic from his high school days) and squirting the European Sparrows who are scaring away the native birds. It seems to help without actually hurting the birds. I like the super soaker because it can shoot up to 50 feet so it is much easier for me to sneak up on the birds. If you use the super soaker, you can water your peas at the same time. Dare I say it - two birds with one stone...err...squirt?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 11:12PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Until two years ago, I would never have suspected birds of eating foliage... but they can, sometimes severely.

In 2007, when my Swiss chard was about a foot high, the leaf tips began to be shredded. At first I suspected grasshoppers, but there was leaf debris on the ground. Eventually I caught the culprits in the act - a flock of goldfinches!!! They ate a 20-foot row to the ground within two weeks. They remember too - last year, they ate my first planting almost as soon as it came up. I grew the second planting under cover, and they left it alone.

And to think I thought of them as friends. :-(

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 2:30AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Over here sparrows and wood pigeons are notorious eaters of vegetables. The pigeons can destroy overwintering brassicas and both love peas, especially the seedlings. I have chicken wire from a 3ft wide roll which I bend into a v shaped tunnel and put over the peas. This works until they are about a foot high but is awkward once the pea sticks are in place. In the winter we always have to net brassicas and some people even grow them in cages.
However, sometimes birds are blamed for damage when they are actually just feeding on the real culprits such as aphids or caterpillars. As zeedman says, the fallen debris is the give-away that it's birds.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 7:23AM
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The rabbits and birds have generally avoided my step garden on the side of my house. I think it has to do with the fact that my neighbor's keep a pack of dogs in their back yard. They can have up to four dogs causing a ruckus on any given day. Thankfully the loud barking, well extremely annoying to me, doesn't damage my plants. Too bad the dogs' barking doesn't keep the chipmunks away. I have a live trap for that.

The rabbits do like my shade garden in my yard. My husband and I had to put up wire mesh fence all around the garden to keep the veggie bandits out. This has worked great. I know my grandparents used to cover their strawberries with a fine mesh cloth to keep the birds out. As a child I used to get upset when birds got caught under that cloth. I would release the birds, and my grandpa would tell me the bird learned its lesson about stealing strawberries.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 1:32PM
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leira(6 MA)

Well, it's definitely birds. I saw more of them there this evening, landing on the trellis and also landing on any unsupported pea vines, which bent them over until they nearly snapped. The birds then started picking at the tips of the vines.

I think we'll be done with peas for the season very soon, since there are hardly any growing tips remaining, and therefore few blossoms. I'm curious whether my planned Fall crop (assuming I get it planted on time!) will suffer the same fate.

What I really don't understand is why the birds haven't touched the pea vines until now...after all, the vines have been in the garden for about 2 months at this point, but have been untouched until the last week or so.

Did the birds just read in some cooking magazine that pea shoots are the hottest new gourmet item, perhaps?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 12:35AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

:) You should feel complimented- obviously these are birds with refined taste! Birds need to eat a little greenery just as we do- at least that's what I read in captive bird-keeping articles. So maybe they are satisfying their need with your peas? Your local birds might have discovered your pea vines by accident, but decided that they liked them! Birds' diets can change dramatically when they are feeding young. The nesting season should be winding down by the end of summer, so maybe your fall crop will be OK? All of this is assuming that you've ruled out them feeding on aphids on the peas, of course! :) As Zeedman said, they will likely remember where they got this food next year and come back to check. Maybe some pie plates hanging so they flash and bang in the breeze? Or maybe some 30% shade cloth (recommended in the fruit forum as being superior to bird netting in every way)draped over the vines once the birds show up again? Or Veggiefaery's very satisfying sounding super-soaker... Good luck!


    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 12:02PM
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Sometimes it seems finches will eat anything they can fit into their beaks. They eat my fruit tree blossoms and the tiniest of fruitlets. And this year I grew Sugar Snap pole peas and the finches went after those. The tender grown tips are tasty and the tendrils are actually sweet. In the end, the damage wasn't so bad. I don't recall them touching my bush snow peas last year. I think they prefer to be up off the ground a bit when they feed. Safer that way, and we cooperated by building a lovely trellis. What could be more convenient for them?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 2:26PM
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