Encouraging birds of prey

Can birds of prey replace boom of blueberry cannons?

Throughout rural parts of the Fraser Valley this time of year, you might hear many sounds – some pleasant, some a little bizarre and others downright annoying.

What was that sound, I wondered recently? A car backfiring? Fireworks? A gunshot?

No, it was a propane cannon being used to try to scare off pesky birds. Many questions have been raised about the use of these blueberry cannons. Annoying is just one of the terms used to describe the sound.

In recent years, the area planted in blueberries in our region has grown tremendously, along with these sounds. The pleasant sounds I am thinking of are made by song birds that attack the blueberry crop — sounds not always welcomed by blueberry growers.

One of the worst offenders is the familiar American robin. The robin can attack berry crops with the same voracity with which it attacks the worms in your lawn. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the robin’s pleasant song.

However, probably the most notorious fruit-feeding culprit is the European starling, which sings a strange high whistling tune.

True to its moniker, the starling is of European extraction, brought here by a group who thought the North American continent should have all the birds named in Shakespeare’s plays. Now the most numerous bird in North America, the starling consumes many a blueberry.

My colleague Professor Karen Steensma at Trinity Western University is part of a continent-wide effort to study the impacts of birds feeding on fruit, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Steensma reports: “We are looking to quantify damage caused by birds in a number of crops, including blueberries here in the Fraser Valley, and will hopefully find some creative solutions in the process.”

This brings to mind the bizarre sound that is sometimes heard:  a cacophony of birds half singing and half screaming on audio. The idea is to mimic birds of prey to frighten the blueberry eaters. But might the problem birds get used to it?

Steensma and her team are researching ways to employ the real McCoy – birds of prey deployed by master falconers, and wild raptors such as kestrels. If a raptor flies over a blueberry field, other birds tend to make themselves scarce. Kestrels are declining in the Pacific Northwest, so Steensma’s team is strategically placed nestboxes close to areas where their services are needed.

“We still have much more research to do to make headway in managing these problem birds,” says Steensma, “And I am sure the problem calls for a variety of solutions. But using their natural predators in some way makes a lot of sense.”

David Clements is a professor of biology and environmental studies at Trinity Western University.

Just Posted

VIDEO: People pack the streets for Community Day in Langley City

For the 25th anniversary of the annual event, it incorporated the food truck festival

Pride flag taken down by Township of Langley

Woman said she was told it was removed from her front yard because of a complaint

Langley’s Wyatt twins make Pan Am team

Wyatts back home after completing freshman year at University of Memphis

VIDEO: Beer lovers tip a few for Langley Rotary Clubs

17th Annual Tip ‘n Taste at Cascades Casino serves up craft suds for local charities

Langley Mustang achieves personal best

Local track and field team earn 14 gold medals at successful Jesse Bent Memorial Meet

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

Most Read