Are birds pulling up your lawn?

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 5 July 2023 

Have birds been pulling up sections of your lawn? It's a problem many homeowners are facing and one where solutions are thin on the ground.

More and more, I hear stories of birds relentlessly ripping up lawns. They come back day after day and are not easily deterred by frustrated homeowners. The questions most people ask are, why are they doing it? And how do I stop them? While the reason they are doing it is straightforward enough, how to stop them is another matter. 

What type of birds are the culprits?

Birds can be made distinct by their diet. There are some common types, for example:

  • Carnivores: These birds eat meat, including mammals, rodents, fish etc. Birds in this group include raptors such as Eagles, Owls and Kookaburras. 
  • Insectivores: As the name suggests, these birds primarily feed on insects. Birds include Swallows, Willy Wagtails and Murray Magpies.
  • Granivores:  These birds eat seeds, plants and greens and include birds such as Galahs, Cockatoos and sparrows 

Most people think that if they have birds getting stuck into their lawns, they are hunting down insects. While this may be true during the spring and summer, it’s most often not the case during winter.  The most common types of birds that we see damaging lawns during winter are granivores, namely the ones mentioned above. It’s important to know this because it will have an influence on how you deal with the problem. 

What are they doing on your lawn?

In simple terms, they're having a feed both for food sources in your lawn and on the lawn itself. Granivorous birds have a totally vegetarian diet. They live off seeds and other vegetable matter and, by their curious nature, have discovered that lawns contain valuable food sources. Winter is a time when there is typically less food around than at other times of the year, and to adapt, some species of birds have become quite creative in their quest for dinner.  Birds such as sparrows dig around, looking for seeds in the thatch of the lawn. When in large numbers, they can cause a bit of a mess by scratching out dead-looking thatch that hangs around on the surface. Other birds, such as Galahs, Corellas and Cockatoos, are actually eating the lawn itself!  They have a penchant for lawns such as Kikuyu, and it’s not the blades of grass they are after or even the surface runners but the rhizomes (or underground runners) that lie beneath the surface. To get to them, they use their claws and strong beaks to dig below the surface of your lawn, pulling up chunks in the process. You’ll often see an array of lawn runners lying on the surface when they have finished. Kikuyu rhizomes are thick, white runners with small nodes every 2-3 cm. The birds bite into these runners to release the sugary starch that exists within them. They are essentially eating your lawn and loving every minute of it. Because of their intelligent and curious nature, once they've found that they like your lawn, you'll find the same birds coming back year after year.

Can they cause significant damage?

This problem is becoming more common as bird populations increase. With less food around during Winter to support them, they are forced to look for alternative food sources. Most people who report damage from these birds are concerned about the aesthetic side of the problem, and this is understandable - they do make quite a mess. Because kikuyu is dormant in Winter, it is more susceptible to damage such as this and won't repair itself until the weather warms up. In this way, the damage that they cause is more superficial and cosmetic than anything else, and in most cases, being a particularly resilient lawn, kikuyu will recover in the Spring. In exceptional cases, where large numbers of birds relentlessly feed on your lawn, day on day, complete defoliation can occur, which will be unsightly. Even in these situations, there will most likely be enough kikuyu seed, rhizomes and stolons left in the soil for the lawn to regenerate.

What can you do?

The answer for homeowners lies in creative ways of derring them from landing on your lawn.  We've been running this blog during Winter for a few years now and have heard from people trying many different approaches such as bird deterrents and bird scarers. We’ve even heard of people going to the lengths of putting out bowls of seed to provide them with an alternative food source instead of eating their lawn. Have a read of the comments below for some ideas to try.  Thankfully, it is unlikely that they will kill your lawn, so in that sense, the problem is temporary, albeit annual. 

If you've tried something that works, leave a comment below - that way, others can learn from your successes. 

Feedback from Readers:


Last year our Kikuyu lawn was decimated by galahs. Back in March, we installed a motion-activated impact sprinkler, and it’s working really well. Ended up buying 2 to get coverage, and we move them every week or so.

The brand we bought is sureguard.



Comments (6)

Galahs eating my Kykuyu lawn

By: on 7 July 2023
I had a daily visit of galahs destroying my newly installed lawn. I used fertiliser granules it slowed them down but didn't stop them. I searched the internet and found a solar animal away elite, by Pestrol for $160.00 it works great, no more bird attacks also in our area is a rabbit problem and they are no longer a problem as well.

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hi Bill Thanks for the great feedback Andrew

Chicken Wire

By: on 7 July 2023
The beasts have been digging up my lawns for the last couple of years. Over the years I've put a lot of effort in to maintaining the lawn ... & not for the benefit of the galahs. Up until lately, I've been the scarer :) always going outside clapping my hands & shouting at them, only for them to return. When they really get stuck into the lawn, you can barely see their heads as they have dug so far down into the lawn ggrrrr!!! So this week, we went out & bought some chicken wire & laid down over the entire lawn. So far (only a couple of days), I've not had any come around digging up the lawn.

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hi Vicki Thank you so much for the great feedback Hope this might be able to hep other customers with the same problem Andrew

Bird scarers

By: on 12 August 2022
I have galahs and other parrots eat lawn and chew stems of geraniums. Pull the leaves off of the agapanthus So I bought stacks of cheap garden stakes and cut plastic bags into strips Tied the strips to top of stakes and and placed them every few feet apart. Now when the birds come, the plastic moves in breeze, it frightens them and off they go. My plants are regrowing and birds seem to know they are there now and don’t come by as often.

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hi Anne Thank you for your feedback and advise This will be handy for customers to know Regards Andrew

Galahs eating kikuyu

By: on 18 August 2021
Hasn’t been too bad this year but in the past, they have been a nuisance until we bought one of those big plastic owls from Bunnings and put in on the front lawn near where they liked to congregate. It worked a treat.

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hi Paul Thanks for your comments Cheers

Galah deterrent

By: on 13 March 2021
Tried every thing to stop galahs ripping up lawn nothing worked. Went to Bunnings got 6 bags of chicken manure mix for $3.90 each throw on lawn then mowed it in without catcher .they all still come but eat nexy doors lawn now . They wont go near it . 3 weeks an not a blade of grass ripped up

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hi Ron Thanks for your tip Glad to hear they're not ripping up your lawn anymore

Galahs eating kikuyu grass

By: on 17 August 2019
I put a new kikuyu lawn down ,it cost $3500 ,and it looked great,then the galahs came and started pulling chunks out . I have put bird rattle tape out but they are not scared of it so i scoured the internet and found an article by don bourke that says use Alum from pool supply shops at a rate of one teaspoon per litre of water, he says the birds hate the taste and it is environmentally friendly. I am going out today to buy some to try.

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
That's great David. Let us know how it goes! Regards, Stefan

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