• Bird control - Blueberries versus starlings

Bird control - Blueberries versus starlings

Our clients, Greftenhoeve and Blauwe Bes Drenthe cultivate different kinds of blueberries in their orchards and have had an ongoing battle with starlings for years. The goal of this project was to protect the ripening blueberries from starlings, crows and common wood pigeons.

Strategy and results:

Because both Greftenhoeve and Blauwe Bes Drenthe cultivate different kinds of blueberries, they do not ripen at the same rate. Harvesting all fruit can take up to eight weeks and therefore controlling the bird population in the area requires long term solutions. We decided to focus on the starlings because they cause most of the damage and their behavior is predictable.

Traditionally, scout starlings are spotted near the orchard weeks before harvesting. To make a lasting impression, we started flying our peregrine falcon Robird four weeks prior to the first harvest. We immediately noticed a decrease in scouts.

As the first batch of blueberries ripened, we increased our visits and flight duration. We combined the use of our Robird with traditional bird control methods (kites, sounds and laser) and the results were astounding: at Greftenhoeve the starling population did not just decrease; not one starling was found near the orchards. After inspecting and analyzing the surroundings, we discovered the nearest starlings two kilometers from the orchard.

The crow population decreased by 80% compared to previous years, but the Robird did not noticeably affect the number of common wood pigeons.

Lessons learned:

It absolutely pays off to start flying the Robird before large flocks arrive, weeks before harvesting starts. Scouts communicate the danger of a predator to the flock and they stay away from the orchards to avoid the impending doom of an imminent attack by a predator. The presence of the Robird had little to no effect on the common wood pigeon. Because the damage they cause is minimal compared to the damage caused by starlings, we decided not to change our strategy. However, we will start trials to see how common wood pigeons respond to our eagle Robird, and to different combinations of technologies.

Do you have any bird-related problems in your orchard? Contact us to discuss how we can help you.