Pointers to keep birds at bay and away from your berry crops

According to Professor Michael Mengak of the University of Georgia, controlling birds in the field is a bit like getting a haircut, changing your car’s oil, and cutting the grass.

“There is no such thing as a and done. It is not an event. Managing wildlife damage is a process that repeats over and over again, ”says Mengak, wildlife specialist at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. “There are no magic bullets, magic powder or magic at all. It’s hard, hard work, and it’s going to cost a lot.

Unfortunately, complacency can also be costly.

While the numbers are generally difficult to pin down, according to Mengak, he notes a 2013 study that found bird damage to four crops in five states in one season totaled $ 189 million.

Specific to blueberries, a 100% crop loss with netless “Bluecrop” plants could potentially result in a loss of $ 7,223 per acre, according to Mengak. With ‘Tifblue’, a 60% crop loss with non-net bushes could result in a loss of $ 8,668 per acre.

Given these annual losses, the question turns to the feasibility of a large initial outlay of a long-term solution, such as netting for birds and fencing for other animals.

“It can be justified in terms of these losses, but it is not a simple economic decision to invest, perhaps, tens of thousands of dollars in a fence,” Mengak said. “Sometimes we can’t incur such an economic expense up front, and we have to apply less expensive and perhaps more temporary methods. “

Either way, controlling birds requires diligence and perseverance, Mengak says. “There’s going to be a lot of frustrations and setbacks along the way,” he notes, “but there are ways to improve our chances of success.”

Cedar waxwings can be problematic for berry growers.
(Photo: Mike’s Birds)

Steps to Mitigate

Common winged pests include starlings, robins, blackbirds, crows, crows, blue jays, mockingbirds and wax wings, according to Mengak and David Lockwood, a specialist in fruit crop extension and of nuts at the University of Tennessee. Modes of bird control include:

Habitat modification: Isolated plantings and smaller blocks are more vulnerable because they allow birds to concentrate their damage. Instead, plants do best when they are closer to other blocks and orchards. “It’s a strange way to look at it, but if you spread the damage, no grower, field, crop or plant will suffer the majority of the loss,” says Mengak.

That said, losses, in general, are never evenly distributed among different producers, Mengak says.

“Sometimes a producer suffers most of the loss, and the producer down the street suffers nothing. And next year that could be reversed, ”he says. “We don’t know why this is happening, so we have to be vigilant and work for the long term.”

Habitats near areas where birds can hide, roost, or rest before eating, such as power lines and tree snags, can increase damage; ditto for nearby forests and brushy fields. Mengak recommends removing isolated trees while avoiding established power lines and bird habitats when starting a plantation.

Visual scaring devices: Anything that moves – streamers, weather vanes, aluminum pans – will deter birds, says Mengak, but not for long. “Birds are not stupid. They get used to it very quickly, ”he says. “Shifting things, changing the fear tactic is better. Of course, this takes time and energy on the part of the producer. It is better to combine such devices than to use only one.

Hearing scaring devices: Legal shooting, pyrotechnics, carbide cannons, and distress calls can effectively repel by scaring or disorienting birds, Mengak says. “They have to be applied when the birds come to the area to feed, so maybe in the evening. Pyrotechnic cannons can be put on timers that go off at regular intervals. Meanwhile, game birds that are shot regularly, like turkeys, are less sensitive to loud noises, he adds. Small birds that come in flocks are more sensitive to these loud noises.

Methyl anthranilate: This derivative of the ‘Concord’ grape is sold as a taste repellant for birds. Golf courses use it to deter geese. At $ 100 a gallon, it’s “a bit pricey,” Mengak says, “but it can be a short-term alternative in some situations. It irritates the (birds’) sense of taste.

Nets: Although expensive, netting may be the most effective control practice, says Mengak, ranging from individual row coverage to full field enclosure. “Depending on the crop type and harvest format, you can place them on the crop just before harvest. I saw this in the vineyards, ”says Mengak. “It’s a costly upfront investment, but if it’s done right and applied, taken out after the season is over and stored properly, it can be used for several years, so the cost can be spread over time. “


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