Air dancers show promise as bird deterrents

05/31/2014 10:46:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

air dancerHeidi HenrichsSmall plot trials have shown that air dancers may be good bird deterrents. Cornell University researchers will scale up the trials this season.Air dancers—inflatable creatures used in front of stores or car dealerships to capture passersby attention—may hold promise to deter birds from feeding on berries and other fruit crops.

During the past two years, Cornell University researchers have tried to quantify bird damage in berries and grapes. They also compared different types of deterrents, including bird distress callers and hawk kites.

The researchers—Heidi Henrichs, Paul Curtis and Jay Boulanger, all with the Department of Natural Resources—found that four bird species were primarily responsible for damage: American robins, Baltimore orioles, European starlings and cedar waxwings.

Damage varied from year to year, depending on the crop size, according to a grower newsletter.

In 2012, for example, bird damage was 21.8 percent. With the smaller sized crop that year, bird damage accounted for a larger part of overall crop losses.

In 2013, bird damage averaged 8.7 percent.

In small plots that hosted air dancers, bird damage averaged 7.4 percent, which was lower than for paired control blocks (8.3 percent) and non-trial sites (9.6 percent), although not statistically significant.

Trials conducted last year in Michigan blueberries also reflected this trend.

Based on the results, Cornell University researchers plan to conduct a full-scale experiment with air dancers in blueberries and other fruit this season.

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