When it's time to pick their four acres of wine grapes, Carl and Rita Comfort would rather the birds didn't beat them to it. Without some form of bird control, they could lose about 10% of their harvest. So at their vineyard, Comforts of Whidbey, they broadcast the distress calls of birds, to keep would-be grape-eaters - like these European Starlings - at bay. Before the Bird Scare machine, they tried the blast of a cannon, but you can imagine what the neighbors thought of that. Now, the calls of starlings and robins and a Cooper's Hawk do the job.
Bird Scare Protects the Harvest - Interview with Carl and Rita Comfort
Interview by Chris and Todd Peterson
This is BirdNote!
[Sounds of LOTS of robins in the fall]
When it’s time to pick their four acres of wine grapes, Carl and Rita Comfort would rather the robins and starlings didn’t beat them to it. Without some form of bird control, they could lose about ten percent of their harvest. At an average $150 per case of wine, that loss adds up fast. So at their vineyard on Whidbey Island, Washington, they broadcast the distress calls of birds, like this of a robin, to keep the would-be grape-eaters at bay.
[Distress call of Robin – from the Bird Scare machine]
Carl describes the Bird Scare technology:
T 216 1:30 It’s an electronic device with a speaker that you hook up to a car battery and it has a variety of calls that are birds in distress, or hunting birds of prey. And so you turn this on in a vineyard - it’s on a photo sensor …and as the sun comes up, and the birds are out feeding, this device comes on and you alternate the calls… so they don’t get accustomed to it.
Before the Bird Scare machine, they tried the intermittent blast of a cannon, but you can imagine what the neighbors thought of that. Now, Carl says, the calls of starlings and robins and a Cooper’s Hawk do the job. [Cooper’s Hawk]
And here’s Rita:
T 216 3:32 … I actually saw this flock of birds come in and they flew around in a circle and the Bird Scare came on and they circled around and went straight over into a fir tree, next to the vineyard. And they stopped. And the Bird Scare stopped, ... and the birds started flying again. …They circled around, the Bird Scare came on, and they just took off! And I didn’t see them again! They didn’t land. They just took off! So it really works!
So where do the birds get to feed? There’s a huge patch of wild blackberries just around the bend. For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.
Sounds of flock of American Robins birds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, recorded by D.J. Kerr.
Sounds of robins in distress and Cooper’s Hawk from the Bird Scare machine.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2011 Tune In to Nature.org November 2011 Narrator: Michael Stein