LYNDEN, WA – Whatcom County berry farmers are turning to a surprising method of protecting their crops from a damaging pest…without the use of pesticides or lethal means.
The European Starling can eat up to 15% of a fruit crop and cause even more in damage and spread of disease. Pest control for deterring starlings comes in many forms. For Enfield Farms, a berry grower in Whatcom County, security of their crop comes by using trained falcons like cooper's hawks. These raptors have been proven to eliminate 99% of the pest birds in fruit fields and orchards across Washington state.
Falconry on farms works because the starlings and other pest birds recognize the trained falcons as a predator. “I [use] birds that are indigenous to this area that eat starlings and have taught it behaviors to make it look like it is hunting.” says Frank Lapsansky, a falconer based in Whatcom County.
Lapsansky has been flying his birds over the fields of berry growers and other fruit crops for many years. The act of flying a bird over a field for a few minutes every day can deter pest birds that would otherwise cause significant damage to the fruit or crop. After all, the hard work put into the crops were not meant to be a food source for the birds, but for humans. The falcon’s presence promises security of the crop and higher yields for the farmer.
Enfield Farms, which has been using falconry as a pest control mechanism for over a decade, has seen the benefits of this strategy firsthand. Kevin Berendsen, agronomist at Enfield Farms, says that the falcons have taught the starlings that their berry fields are “not a sanctuary to come and eat”.
As the falcon visits become more frequent in the fields, the starlings assume that the falcon lives there. Over time, although it is just an estimate, berry yield does increase. Berendsen and other members of the Enfield Farms team agree that “[Falconry] has provided a level of bird control that we have not been able to get through any other means.”
This method has proven to be effective not just in berry, but many other crops across Washington state. It is a holistic and eco-friendly approach, and beyond that it proves to be more effective than streamers, cannons, and other loud noises to scare off unwanted birds.
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REAL Environmental Action & Leadership is an effort by Whatcom Family Farmers - Education to help the greater Washington community work together to continually improve environmental practices, and for increased awareness of the family farming community’s Real Environmental Action and Leadership. Whatcom Family Farmers - Education is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.