Birds in the Vineyard

© Stephen Rothfeld


Photo: Sarah Anne Risk

Birds as farm friends and environmentally-friendly pest control.

Greater diversity of bird species present in vineyards can lead to less damage from pests, greater yields, and higher quality fruit!


What kinds of birds should growers welcome into the vineyard?

Recent studies show that greater diversity of the following avian species in vineyards results in reduction of damage from grapevine pests:

  • Insectivores
  • Birds that do not eat fruit
  • Cavity nesting species whose numbers can be increased with the addition of specialized bird boxes
  • Birds of prey


Beneficial species found in Napa County:

  • Western bluebird
  • House wren
  • Tree swallows
  • Western king bird
  • Black phoebe
  • Barn owls
  • Red tail hawks and other raptors


Methods for attracting beneficial birds to the vineyard:

  • Bird boxes built specifically for certain species
  • Tall perches particularly for raptors
  • Hiring raptor services

Photo: Sarah Anne Risk

Additional Resources


Birds as pests. 

Unfortunately, not all birds are beneficial in the vineyard setting, but there are various forms of deterrents to protect your fruit from bird damage.


Which kinds of birds should growers discourage from entering vineyards?

  • Flocking birds
  • Birds that eat fruit


Local species of birds that could cause damage to vineyards:

  • Starlings
  • Blackbirds
  • Cedar waxwings
  • House finches
  • Wild turkeys


NVG recommended guidelines for bird deterrents and proper use:

  • Always refer to NVG’s Best Practices for Being a Good Neighbor
  • Bird deterrents should only be used in cases where protection of an agricultural crop is needed to avoid damage
  • Always adhere to manufacturer instructions for effective use
  • Understand that few studies have been conducted that have tested the effectiveness of various types of bird deterrents
  • It used incorrectly, birds can adapt to deterrents in as little as two weeks
  • It’s recommended that growers do a cost-benefit analysis prior to investing in bird deterrent infrastructure
  • It’s important to remember that not all wildlife is bad for the vineyard! A healthy, whole ecosystem approach that includes wildlife protections contributes positively to grape quality.
  • Most of these bird species are federally protected, and it is required that growers get depredation permits to take any action that could harm those birds or their nests. Game species, such as turkeys are also protected under a different set of laws. It is, therefore, highly recommended that growers consult with their local Ag Commissioners office when considering how to deal with birds as pests. 


Falconry

Birds of Prey

Pros:

  • Humane, natural approach
  • Has been proven effective

Cons:

  • May not be as effective on large-scale properties
  • Very costly


Physical Barriers

Netting

Pros:

  • Effective at protecting fruit
  • Birds less likely to adapt or learn to get around netting

Cons: 

  • Higher cost for installment than other deterrent techniques
  • Takes more time and labor to install


Noise Deterrent Tactics

Dogs

Pros:

  • Humane, natural approach
  • Has been proven effective

Cons:

  • May not be as effective on large-scale properties

Cannons

Pros:

  • Lower cost to set up and install
  • Effective with proper use

Cons:

  • If improperly used, birds may adapt quickly to scaring methods leading to lower rates of effectiveness
  • If birds adapt, they return with increased energy demand and eat more
  • If improperly used, scare tactics could become subject to County enforcement measures


Visual Scaring Techniques

Some basic visual scaring techniques include:

  • Scarecrows
  • Flags & "dancers"


New Technologies

Lasers

  • No noise
  • Scares birds with green lasers at regular intervals across


Ultrasonics

  • Frequencies below human range may be less likely to disturb neighbors


Additional Resources


Photo: Roberto Juarez