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KEEP OUT!

14 Strategies for Keeping Birds Out of Crops & Gardens

By SHIRLEY BYERS

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As long as folks have been farming they have been chasing critters out of their orchards and crops. To a hungry animal or bird there’s no difference between the plants they can forage in the wild and the plants they can forage on your farm.
“Be proactive,” says Moose Jaw agrologist, Grand McLean. “Know that the trouble is coming. Your goal is to keep them from coming in the first place. Once they start it’s more difficult to chase them away.”

Scare tactics can be divided into three categories: sight, sound and serious.

Sight: Scarecrows, Flags & Owls
Scarecrows have been guarding crops since at least the sixteenth century. A couple of sturdy sticks and some duct tape can form a frame. Clothed in loose, bright garments that flap in the wind a scarecrow can be effective for short periods of time and is often all that is needed to keep the munching birds away while tender, young garden seedlings are getting established in the spring.
For a larger piece of land you’ll need several scarecrows and they should be moved frequently so the wildlife doesn’t become accustomed to them. Crosses with plastic bags stapled to the arms are sufficient. Also, you might try hanging tires on some of them. Keep moving the tires around. Changes perpetuate neophobia, the birds’ natural fear of new things.

The cost is mostly your time. Scarecrows can be constructed from materials already on hand.

Another visual deterrent can be created by collecting lids from tin cans, punching a hole on one edge of each and stringing several lids together. Hang them in the trees and again move them around frequently. Old CDs can be used in the same way.

Flags made from black or white plastic, cut into 2 by 3 foot rectangles and attached to 4 foot tall stakes so that they flap in the breeze can repel waterfowl from fields. One flag per acre is recommended where the birds have already begun feasting and one flag per five acres if they haven’t yet arrived.
Fake owls, snakes and effigies of other predators cost from $20-$40 but are usually effective for only a short time.

Scare Windmills have blades made or painted with a reflective surface which flashes in the sunlight and scares birds. One unit with blades 36 inches in diameter is recommended for repelling geese in one acre for a cost of about $80.
Bird scare tape, also known as flash tape or repeller ribbon, is thin, shiny ribbon of mylar about 1/2 inch wide. It is silver on one side and coloured, usually red, on the other. Used in millet, sweet corn and sunflower fields, it has successfully reduced blackbird damage when spaced at 3-7 metre intervals but not at 16 m intervals. It also reduced geese feeding but it is fairly costly (about $5.40 for 290 feet) and vulnerable to high winds.

Joanne Rorquist who operates a U Pick of Saskatoon berries near Wadena, Saskatchewan, says that stringing up lids or CDs is too labour intensive for anything larger than a back garden. But most years all it takes to scare the birds away is the presence of a few pickers in the patch and her son riding his dirt bike between the rows every once in a while. This year though, the birds arrived en masse. She tried scare tape and fake owls. “The scare tape seemed to work for a while,” she said, “but we gave up on the owls when the birds flew in and perched next to my husband while he was placing an owl on a pole.”

Overhead Scare Eye Balloons, and helium filled kites that simulate hawks or eagles in flight, have, in some tests, been more successful than propane cannons for frightening blackbirds from corn fields. Flying eagle kites are also effective for repelling ducks and geese around field crops. They cost less than $100 apiece and you’ll need anywhere from one for up to 8 hectares of fields to one for 2 acres of orchards. You’ll also need a pole on which to tether the balloon/kite.
A laser gun can project a beam up to 1.5 miles without any damage to the environment or animals. It is most effective in low light conditions such as dawn and dusk. A hand held pistol with a range of 1500 feet costs $995.

Pyrotechnics consist of shell crackers, noise bombs and rope firecrackers. All have been successful on several species including geese but must be used persistently and they would require someone’s actual presence to activate them. The launcher or pistol costs from $30-$500.

Ammo for the Screamer Siren travels from 250-300 feet making a siren-like sound as it flies and costs $40 for 100 rounds. The Bird Banger travels 100-150 feet before exploding and ammo costs are about the same.

Sound: Frighten Them with Noise
Radios are perhaps the simplest and least expensive way to go, especially if you have a small area, such as a vegetable garden to protect.

The propane cannon has proven useful in fields and orchards. One exploder per 50 acres is recommended to frighten waterfowl and one exploder per ten acres to frighten blackbirds from corn, sorghum and sunflower fields. These cost around $400.

Alan Irving has used scare cannons for at least 15 years to scare waterfowl off swathed grain on his Saskatchewan farm. He’s obtained good control with two cannons per 150 acres but timing is crucial he says. “If the geese or ducks get in the habit of landing on your field before you get the cannons out they want to keep coming back. If you can get them out before they start they might stay away altogether.”

Also, he pointed out, these birds won’t land in standing grain. So, if birds are a problem and you can straight combine a field, then you might want to consider that option.

AV alarms are programmed to emit sounds that frighten birds. These will typically include the call of predator species and the cries of other birds in distress.
In tests done in a New Brunswick orchard, the battery powered Phoenix Wailer appeared to perform better than the propane banger, in that there was evidence that it took the birds longer to get used to and there was better public acceptance of it. Good results depended on the device being moved frequently to new locations. The cost is just under $5000 for a system which includes 8 remote speakers and a battery to cover 25 acres.

An ultrasonic device, priced at around $500, which emits sounds that frighten birds but is inaudible to the human ear would seem like the answer to a farmer’s prayers (not to mention those of his neighbours) but information from the extension department of Colorado State University claims that these devices won’t work on birds any more than they will on humans because the hearing range of birds is similar to that of people.

The Scarecrow Sprinkler is an infrared motion sensor that sets off a noisemaker and sprinkler when activated. Hooked up to a garden hose it works on a nine volt battery and costs less than $100.

Serious? Get Yourself a Hawk
“If you can encourage natural predators such as hawks and owls you will have cost effective bird protection,” says Andrew Graham, of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. Plans for making nesting boxes for raptors can be seen at the Canadian Wildlife Services website at bóng đá trực tuyến http://www.pnr-rpn.ec.gc.ca/nature/whp/raptors/dc17s04.en.html

Another alternative is to hire a professional falconer—someone who will bring his/her trained falcons to your farm. Graham says a demo project showed these professional birds of prey were very effective but can get expensive.
Aside from the falconer, you can buy scare devices from farm supply stores or often from the internet. And there is financial help. The National Farm Stewardship Program offers a 30% cost share on eligible items to a maximum of $10,000 for registered farm businesses.

Implementation varies from province to province. See bóng đá trực tuyến http://www.agr.gc.ca/progser/ps_nfsp_e.phtml for more details.

Shirley Byers is the author of three books. She also writes for a variety of North American magazines and newspapers. She lives on an acreage near Kelvington, Sask. and is part owner of the family farm, a small holding in north east Saskatchewan.

Wisdom collected over the ages

The ongoing struggle to keep critters out of crops has spawned its own folklore. Shoot one crow and hang his carcass up where the others can see it and they’ll stay away, is one adage.

The little birds are just going after your fruit/berries for the moisture. Provide plenty of water for them to drink and they’ll leave the orchard alone, is another.
One grower, who chose to remain anonymous, claims that the crow strategy works very effectively, especially if the uh, dear departed, is one of the local flock.
“Hang the body up high so scavengers can’t get at it, he advises. When they first see it, they’ll congregate around it and make a racket. Then they’ll leave.”
“Some people would be offended,” he acknowledged, “but they (crows) have damaged up to 80 per cent of my apple orchard.”

This doesn’t work on magpies. And songbirds are protected species.
As for the water for fruit plan, “It doesn’t work for robins in strawberries and I suspect other little birds want the fruit, not just water,” says Rick Sawatzky, research technician at the Dept of Plant Sciences, University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.
~S