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Bird Control in a Haskap Orchard – Update

UPDATE – For 2016 we tried the below and this year was a serious problem year for birds due to dry weather. Birds will apparently turn to berry crops during dry weather periods and 2016 has been a very dry summer to date. Due to the weather, and lack of the usual food for most birds, our berries did not stand a chance and were completely wiped out. Apparently this has occurred to other Haskap growers this year as well.

This was very unfortunate but on the upside our orchard is still young and we could afford to lose a crop. Our plans for next year is to either use drape netting or structural netting. We will still try the Bird Gard and Whirlybird setup on our new 2nd Haskap orchard. The Whirlybirds will be installed on wires instead of fixed on posts. There is an eyelet on the top of the Whirlybird that allows for this type of installation and the Whirlybird will sway and move along the wires with the wind. Of course they will still spin as well.

Another blog post will follow next year once this is setup and feedback as to how it works will be passed along. 

 

Yesterday while wandering around our first orchard we saw our first robins of the season. Based on experience from last year we found out that one of a robin’s favorite foods is honeysuckle (haskap) berries.

Using bird netting is very costly. The cost of purchasing good quality netting and the required labor to use it every year is very discouraging. However the protection that bird netting provides is pretty much 100%. On top of this there are also the issues of weed control management (ie. the bird netting gets in the way), and mowing.

We have taken the approach of not using netting. Since our orchards are still very young we can afford to try other methods while the plants grow larger. Last year we used a Bird Gard acoustic deterrent and this worked very well. We did experience fringe feeding by robins, and it was a bit higher than what we would have liked to see. What we did notice was that the robins were completely on edge when the Bird Gard was operating, but the lure of one of their favorite foods would not keep them away. It was nice to see that any movement in the orchard would send them scrambling for safer areas. Without the acoustic deterrent operating we could almost walk right up to the robins. They are used to living close to humans.

This year we have added a visual product line of bird control. This is the Whirly Bird Repeller. To discourage any birds from forming a habitual pattern of visiting our orchards we have started early with bird control. Since we noticed that acoustic deterrents create an environment for birds that cause them to be very cautious and that any movement caused them to take flight we figure that visual deterrents would be the next step to trying to achieve close to 100% bird control. To start our bird control program for this year we have added Whirly Bird Repellers to our orchards.

Our theory is that by adding bird control devices early to an area, prior to birds nesting, the behavior of the birds in our area can be altered enough that they do not visit our orchards during their daily feeding patterns. So far to date the visual devices appear to be working very well. Robins have been observed on the adjacent properties but have now avoided our orchard.

Once the berries are close to turning blue we will turn on the Bird Gard system.

The Whirly Bird Repeller is very easy to install. You need to have them at least 6-8 feet above the plants (the higher the better). They come with PVC components for mounting to a post. One of the components allows for easy removal, as it is a threaded fitting that you hand tighten. If high winds are expected (ie. tropical storm type weather) they can be removed in about 30s from the post. Ours will be removed after the harvest is finished and we no longer require bird control. This is done to increase the longevity of the product.

You are welcome to visit the farm to see them in action.

4 Comments

  • rochelle

    Will the laser cause adverse problems with drivers in cars, havesting and inspection of workers or pilots in the air???

    • Chris

      Maybe not pilots, but certainly ground level issues might be of concern, and also your neighbors. As usual the manufacturers are stating that it is safe for humans and birds…until it isn’t!

  • Peter MacInnis

    Hi, We are a 10,000 plant orchard in SK. (Bee & Thistle EBH Berry Orchard and Winery). We are currently in our 6th year (planting from 2013 to 2016). We have used netting in our Home Acre (700 plants) with great success (and expense as you know). This year, we decided to go with Bird Gard and not put up the nets at all .Well, it worked to keep out the finches and blackbirds, but now the cedar waxwings are in full force with a few fringe robins. We’ve got 3 units, a small one on the Home Acre, and Pro Plus on each side of the North Orchard (7 acres). Plus a cannon and 2 deterrent hawks. So far, the only side that’s working well is the dedicated cedar waxwing side and I’ve ordered 2 more chips with mostly cedar waxwings in the mix (that’s our biggest issue once the berries turn blue). The cannon does nothing except maybe for the deer and bears (neither of which really do anything anyway, except eat in the clover headlands)…anyway, before I do anything drastic, I’ll see if the dedicated chips do anything. We anticipate harvest in 2 1/2 weeks (July 3-9), and it’s going to be a long time.

    My question is basically have you considered Laser? I looked into it, and the cost is 10K and decided to try Bird Gard first….but I’m going to look into laser for next year. I cannot possibly net (you know the issues with weeding, mowing, and nets getting caught in the foliage, plus time to put up and take down), too expensive and so on. I would need some more positive recommendations for laser before I drop that kind of money.

    My wife is currently up there for 2 hours morning and evening with a shotgun….I’m sure you know the desperation that goes with that issue, plus the wildlife enthusiasts take dim view of it. Cedar waxwings don’t seem that deterred by the noise…even so.

    • Chris

      Hi Peter. Birds are a serious struggle for all haskap growers. I have thought about a laser system, but it is a 10k question…will it work? What we do know is that the berries are irresistible to various species of birds and I do not wish to spend 10k to find out that a laser system is not effective either! The only 100% method is properly installed bird netting. Thanks for commenting. Chris

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