Common practice is to contact a falconer and contract for the coming year. Usually growers know they will have a problem. The falconer typically arrives on the farm a week or so before he is needed so he can get the falcons acclimated to the area and learn their boundaries.
Ottoway says using falcons is better for the environment because growers aren’t using poison or other unnatural methods for deterring depredation birds. The falcons also aren’t nearly as noisy as owl boxes or other mechanical methods for scaring away birds. But there is a cost involved, and Christian says it is cheaper and more effective.
Each contract is different depending on the circumstances, but growers generally are charged a fee for the falconer. Then growers often are responsible for providing room and board for the falconer. Beyond that, falconers may charge for gasoline and food. Falconers also have to provide shelter for the falcons. This usually entails building a mews—a pen or cage for the falcon—on the farm near the crop they will be protecting.
“I can give you a high dollar and a low dollar figure. Generally it can run up to a $1,000 a day. But when you look at the return though, it could be beneficial. It is 100 times more effective than mechanical devices,” Christian says. “Once you’ve seen it done, you are convinced that this is effective.”