(112) Bird Control in Production Strawberries with Falconry

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  • 1 University of California, UCCE, Ventura, CA, 93003

California leads national strawberry fruit production with annual value in Ventura County alone near $300 million. Bird damage to fruit routinely accounts for 3–5% losses and may exceed 50% in some fields. Conventional bird control tools have limited or no effect on fruit damage and may contribute to noise pollution. A four-site study at Oxnard, Calif., from Jan. to Apr. 2005 (highest value fresh market season) showed that release of Peregrine, Saker, or Barbary falcons in combination with helium balloon launching (site 4) in response to fruit damage reduced fruit damage from 80–90% to 15–20% after 1 week. When fruit damage increased again (>20%) a repeated 1-week daily program completely reduced fruit damage during the rest of the season. Falconry alone at site 2 (near man-made structures) for two consecutive days reduced fruit damage from 70–80% to 10–20%, however, at site 3, near giant reed, three weeks of daily releases did not eliminate the damage, but confined it to the strawberry beds adjacent to reed shelter (reducing overall damage from 100% to 25–50%). High frequency of release is likely unfeasible and destruction of shelter habitat may be justified. Falconry alone before damage occurrence (site 1) seemed to prevent fruit damage; however, lack of birds and fruit damage before, during, and after releases made it difficult to draw conclusions about the success of the preventive program. In April, no fruit damage occurred even during bird presence suggesting the change in their diet. The study showed that seed-eating birds were the main pests at Oxnard, Calif., and that trained falcons can disperse them, thus, reducing fruit damage. The success of falconry was site-specific and depended on proximity of suitable habitat and availability of food sources for pest birds.

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