Pictured: Falcon specialist Thor Retzlaff with Cruz, one of the falcons we use to protect our blueberry fields.
Also known as aerial crop protection, falcons play an important role in bird control on our farms. European starlings are the biggest threat, traveling in huge flocks that can decimate an entire field in a matter of hours. The best starling deterrent? Falcons.
One falcon on patrol can protect hundreds of acres from unwelcome birds. Starlings won’t come near a falcon’s territory. The predatory relationship between falcons and starlings is a natural bird management system that fits perfectly within our mission of sustainable, organic farming.
Falconry and how it works
Getty Pollard, the owner and falconer behind B-1RD LLC explains how it works. “By flying falcons in the area, we create a predatory presence that tells other birds to temporarily not visit the farm while the fruit is ripening. When we stop flying the falcons, post-harvest, the local birds return to the farm.”
The falcons play an important role in protection from bird damage as they keep fruit loss at a minimum, as long as the fruit is ripe and vulnerable to bird damage.
Agricultural technology in all areas is incredible and beneficial, but in this case, technology is no match for the falcon. They are one of the most effective bird management tools that work well on large acreage.
How falcons fit into the big picture of sustainable farming
Other organic methods for deterring starlings such as covering crops with nets and blasting propane cannons are effective on a smaller scale, but they’re expensive, disruptive, and fall short of what steady falcon pressure can do in a large area.
TJ Hafner, a certified crop advisor at AgriCare agrees falcons are more effective than machines and fill a vital niche in sustainable farming.
“There are bird deterrent calls/noise boxes that work ok,” Hafner said. “But birds often get used to the sounds and they become less effective. They also can become very bothersome to people living around the farm. Falcons and their handlers are almost silent.”
“Using falcons to deter problem birds is a perfect match and demonstrates that working with nature is a long term sustainable solution,” Pollard said.
Falconry as aerial crop protection helps us farm our blueberries sustainably. Next time you see a falcon hovering in the warm summer air above a blueberry field remember that this noble bird is one of the reasons our fruit is available for your customers in value added forms that are natural, nutrient dense and delicious!