Report Synopsis

Alternate and Cost-Effective Methods to Control Flying Feral Vermin

Han Shiong Siah

Magpie geese have been a major problem on farms in Northern Australia for many years. As far back as the failed Humpty Doo Rice project in the 1960s at Fogg Dam in the Northern Territory, magpie geese have been known to destroy crops. More recently, these geese have become a major pest for fruit and vegetable farmers in Northern Australia. Managing on-farm bird numbers and minimising crop damage has come at a significant cost and the common deterrent strategies employed have yielded mixed results in their effectiveness.

This report examines alternative and new deterrent strategies and technologies currently in use (or currently being trialled) around the world with the purpose of identifying those that could assist Northern Australian farmers. Fourteen different deterrent strategies or technologies, categorised into six groups, were examined.

Visual deterrent - Laser & UV Light technology

Agrilaser® and UV light from Lite Enterprises are both long range silent visual deterrents, which work by shining the light to disturb and deter birds. Agrilaser® is already on the market, while the UV light technology is still under development. Both were shown to be effective at moving birds - in particular, the author has found Agrilaser® to be effective in dispersing magpie geese and other birds.

Drone technology - “Robird” by Clear Flight Solutions

While drones are not new in the Australian agriculture and horticulture sectors, the Robird studied is. The Robird is a robotic life-like drone bird and come in two models (the Peregrine Falcon and Eagle). The Robird mimics the bird of prey it is modelled on and has shown to be effective in the Netherlands (where it was developed) to move problems birds from industrial and horticulture sites. Presently the Robird is not available for purchase but the services of the developer can be engaged.

Auditory deterrents – SonicNets, Bird Gard, Scarecrow, HyperSpike® and latest pyrotechnics products by RocketMan

Of the five auditory deterrents studied, the Sonic Nets technology shows the greatest potential. It works by hijacking the sound wavelength target bird species communicate at, iv inhibiting their ability to communicate with each other. This sound occurs as a low level hum to the human ear, making the technology particularly attractive to small horticulture farms in parts of rural Northern Australia experiencing urban encroachment. The other technologies explored, Scarecrow, Bird Gard, HyperSpike® and pyrotechnics, are shown to be effective, but a disadvantage is the large noise/sound they emit.

Chemical deterrents (non-lethal) – Avian Control® and Avipel® Shield

Two non-lethal chemical deterrents were assessed in this study tour. Due to the discomfort experienced following contact with the chemicals, the birds learn to avoid the treated crops and locations. Both chemical deterrents were demonstrated to work effective although only Avian Control® is approved for use as a bird deterrent on horticultural crops by the Environmental Protection Agency (US). An emergency permit is granted for the use of Avipel® Shield in some US states as there has been a report that residuals of the chemical is found in the produce of some crops. If either chemical is to be registered for use in Australia, careful consideration of safety implications on humans, animals and the environment should be considered and/or investigated.

Natural Predators – The Dog and Falconry

Box Natural predators are some of the most effective and safest deterrents available. Employing the natural predatory instincts of mans best friend, the dog, has shown to be a quick and effective method to disperse birds at airports overseas and in Australia. With appropriate training, the farm dog's instincts can be harnessed for a similar purpose in the horticulture industry. In addition to the dog, there is also a successful and innovative research project using falconry boxes to attract wild birds of prey (American Kestrels) to hunt and breed on cherry farms to manage starling numbers. The same trial should be considered, provided the predators of magpie geese can be attracted to nest successfully in installed boxes.

Environment Modification - altering the environs to discourage bird landings

The strategies studied in this area, such as the resurfacing of an airport grass ways with asphalt or bird resistant grass, is least applicable to the horticulture industry. While they have successfully managed/reduced bird numbers in the aviation industry, it is impractical, for example, to resurface an entire farm with asphalt.

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