It can be a very frustrating experience when you come out to your garden and find the ground has been dug up with no sign of who or what did it. Magpies are notorious for digging in gardens, especially during nesting season. However, there are ways by which you can stop magpies from digging up your garden! Here we will explore some of these methods so that you can get on with enjoying your garden again. Magpie nests can be found all over UK gardens – from trees near water sources such as rivers to bushes and around lawns – anything with enough space inside it becomes an option really! Read on to see how to stop Magpies digging in the garden!

Magpie in a Garden
Affiliate Disclosure

What are Magpies?

Magpies are one of the most recognisable birds native to the UK. They are a member of the Corvidae family, which also includes crows and ravens. Magpies have black feathers with white patches on their wings that make them easy to identify in flight or at rest near your garden!

What Do Magpies Eat?

Magpies eat just about anything but primarily their diet consists of a variety of things and many of them can be found in your garden; they will eat insects, seeds, fruit and even small mammals like mice or rats as well.

Where Do Magpies Live?

Magpies are birds that can be found all over the UK, but they tend to live near water sources such as rivers and lakes. Magpies are a protected species in the UK, which means that they cannot be harmed or killed without permission from Natural England (the government agency responsible for protecting wildlife). They can also not have their eggs taken away!

Magpie on My Lawn
Magpie on My Lawn

Why do Magpies Dig Holes?

Magpies dig holes when they are looking for food or nesting material. Magpies will often dig holes in your lawn just after rainfall when the ground is soft and wet when they are looking for a tasty meal such as worms or insects! They are very clever and can work out where the food is by listening to it moving around underground, so you may not even know that there is something down below until magpies start digging up all those delicious bugs for themselves…yum yum! You can tell if it is a magpie that has been digging in your garden because of the shape of the holes. Magpies will dig a hole that is about three inches deep and then they will make another one next to it.

It is not just magpie holes though, other birds like crows can also be responsible for digging up your garden!

How to Stop Magpies Digging up Your Garden

Magpies are a dominant and prominent species, but they do far less damage to gardens than many people believe as the culprit is often another animal digging holes in your lawn. If, however, your problem is being caused by Magpies, be aware that they are difficult to deter although there are a few things that you can do to prevent them from digging.

First, you need to find out what is attracting them into your garden in the first place; this will help determine what is best for deterring these birds as some methods work better than others depending on their motivation or reason behind being there at all!

1. Remove Food Sources

If it is a food source that has attracted Magpies, then try removing any fruit from trees nearby that may be tempting them into your garden. You should also remove any other plants with berries and leave an attractive birdfeeder for them to use so they do not find what is under your lawn the most appealing.

2. Motion Activated Sprinklers

Motion-activated sprinkler (amazon link – opens in a new tab) systems are a great deterrent to all types of wildlife that may want to visit your garden. They work exactly as they are named; they sense motion and on comes a sprinkler system that will undoubtedly scare the birds away.

Note: This is my favourite option and the one I have had the most success with over the years in deterring all animals, not just magpies.

3. Ultrasonic Scarers

Another great device for keeping wildlife away (including Magpies) is an ultrasonic scarer (amazon link – opens in a new tab). These devices emit a high-pitched sound that humans cannot hear but animals find very unpleasant and will keep them away from your garden for good!

4. Other Sound

Hang a bell on your washing line or hang wind chimes outside to deter them from coming close to your garden. Magpies are extremely sensitive to sound and will avoid any area that is noisy.

5. Dummy Predators

Dummy predators such as fake owls (amazon link – opens in a new tab) can make great deterrents and keep Magpies away by acting on their natural fight-or-flight instinct. Although Magpies can be predatory, they will not tangle with animals like cats, foxes, and owls.

6. Shiny Object

Hang a shiny object (amazon link – opens in a new tab) in the garden such as a mirror or an aluminium pie plate. Magpies are very curious and will be drawn to these objects, but they will not stay for long because of their fear of predators like cats that can see them easily with reflective surfaces.

7. Lawn Health

One thing that you may not be aware of is that although earthworms are a gardener’s friend, there are other bugs and grubs in your lawn that are not conducive to lawn health and will attract Magpies to your garden. A great natural way to keep control of these grubs is to introduce some nematodes which will predate those grubs without damaging your lawn.

Magpie Foraging a Windfall Apple
Magpie Foraging a Windfall Apple


Magpies can be a real nuisance, more so if your lawn is already unhealthy. We have covered several ways to deter Magpies from your garden, and none of them are sure-fire fixes but one of them or a combination of 2 or 3 should stop the Magpies from digging up your garden. From sounds and sprinklers to simple scarers, give them a try and see what works for you. If all else fails, the best option is to put up netting around your garden which will keep them out and also stop other birds from getting in too!

Best Ways How to Stop Magpies Digging in Your Garden Infographic

Garden Doctor Tips

“The key to keeping Magpies off your lawn is to keep it healthy. Introduce some nematodes!”

“Give your lawn a drink at the same time as keeping the birds away with motion-activated sprinklers – WIN-WIN!”

“A well-stocked bird feeder will keep the Magpies off your lawn!”

“Use netting to protect any freshly sown seed or any berries that you want to keep for yourself!”

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are magpies digging in my garden?

Magpies like to dig lawns because they look for worms, bugs and grubs.

If you are having Magpies digging in your lawn, it could be an indication that your lawn is not as healthy as it may seem. 

How do I stop birds from tearing up my lawn?

You will need to look at the root cause. Magpies are hunting on your lawn for tasty grubs to eat. If there are more magpies than usual, maybe you have an infestation of leather jackets just below the surface. 

What do Magpies eat?

With the recent influx of magpies in my backyard, I’ve been wondering what they eat. They are always out there, looking for food and occasionally taking a break to preen their feathers. In fact, magpies are omnivores and will eat just about anything, and according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website: “A Magpie’s appetite is enormous; it has a very wide diet that includes small snakes, fish, frogs and mice.”


Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.

More You Might Like