The high cost of shooting birds

Yesterday I spoke to a wine grape grower here in San Luis Obispo County.  He is buying vineyard bird netting from me this year following his experiences the last few years trying to control his crop loss & damage by shooting the birds.

In most cases, and not generally known to most vineyard owners, shooting birds is in violation of the Federal Migratory Bird Act.  Common birds such as robins are protected under this act, and the penalties for violations are harsh.

The primary pest bird for this customer is starlings, and as an introduced species starlings are not protected by the FMBA, so attempting to control crop loss by shooting them is legal.  Legal, but totally ineffective.

For 20 days last autumn this customer was in the vineyard at the first light of dawn, and stayed there until the final glimmer of twilight – without a break – trying to shoot and/or scare away the flocks of starlings that descended on his vineyards in waves.  His efforts carried a tremendous cost – in terms of his time (and that of workers patrolling other parts of the vineyard), ammunition… and maybe even in terms of sanity 😉

And it didn’t work.

So this year the grapes are getting netting.  They are getting 24/7 protection from birds.  And hopefully in addition to a much bigger crop with none of the off-flavors caused by bird pecked grapes, he will also get some rest and peace & quiet.

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