Do Birds Eat Oranges From The Tree? Surprising Citrus Thieves

orange skin in pot of ivy after bird has eaten orange

Growing your own oranges at home brings a great deal of pleasure. Look after your orange trees well and they will reward you with sweet smelling orange blossoms followed by delicious fruit to pick and enjoy. You might think that with their thick rinds, your oranges and other citrus fruits are safe from backyard birds. Don’t be lulled in to a false sense of security, as we’ve discovered that some birds eat oranges straight from the tree.

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Animals and birds and backyard fruit trees

If you grow your own fruit trees, you are probably used to various species of small birds pecking holes in fruits like apples, pears, peaches, apricots. nectarines or plums. But birds usually leave the citrus alone, probably because of the thick rind. Possums and other critters will also feast of soft skinned fruit, and they have also eaten my citrus tree leaves, but never my oranges. For those who live with squirrels, they are also rather fond of helping themselves to ripe fruit.

However, in the past year we have come home to find someone or something has been devouring our ripe oranges and mandarins. At first I just found the empty shells of my oranges, but then managed to catch them in the act. It turned out to be our friendly backyard ravens at work.

fresh oranges on tree and orange skin after being eaten by a bird with text "do birds eat oranges from the tree?"

Ravens and Crows

Ravens and crows are both similar looking birds. Both are types of corvid and are predominantly black. There are dozens of different species around the world. Here in Australia we have several species of crows and ravens, including the Australian Raven.

You can tell ravens and crows apart in a few different ways, including by their size (ravens are generally larger) and their sounds (crows ‘caw’ and ravens ‘croak’). Both are very intelligent birds, and have some similarities in what they like to eat.

While ravens and crows like to eat small mammals and carrion or animals that have met an untimely death on the road, they also will eat nuts, seeds, berries and fruits. And this includes oranges! Apparently they can be a real pest for commercial citrus growers too.

Pair of Australian Ravens on green outdoor table
Our local Australian Ravens

Ravens as orange thieves

I have actually sat and watched our local ravens working together to pick oranges and mandarins off of my trees. We have both a potted orange and a potted mandarin near the house. A raven will hop up onto the nearby fence, then over to the tree, and pluck the orange off with its beak. Once it falls on the ground, they pick it up and fly to a perch in a nearby tree or even on our roof. There the ravens will pick a hole in the top of the orange and meticulously scoop out all of the flesh inside, leaving just the empty orange skin as evidence of their crime.

Last year they even made a brazen attempt on my potted lime tree. Of course, the lime wasn’t as sweet and tasty as an orange, so they simply pecked a hole in the fruit and left it in our driveway. What a waste!

Empty orange skin in pot of ivy after being eaten by birds
Orange skin left by birds

How to deter birds from eating oranges

For larger oranges trees, netting is going to be the best way to stop ravens and crows from feasting on the ripe fruit. For my potted orange trees, for the sake of appearance I prefer not to net the whole tree. Instead, I place individual net bags (saved from buying onions or other vegetables at the shops) or specilally designed produce bags over each fruit as it starts to ripen and change colour. The ravens don’t seem to have worked out how to remove these and they can no longer snip at the stems with their beaks.

orange on tree with red netting bag
Orange in individual netting bag

More tips for growing citrus at home

Birds and animals aren’t the only things that will make a bee line for your orange trees. For some of the common pests you may find on homegrown citrus, you might be interested in reading about citrus gall wasp, bud mite or whitefly.

And once you have harvested your crop of oranges, make sure to try our recipes, like these delicious orange salad recipes.

For more about growing and cooking with citrus, and citrus themed ideas, we’d love you to subscribe.

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