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Starlings beware, falcons patrol Oregon blueberry fields
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Some of Oregon’s larger blueberry growers this summer have enlisted a winged warrior in the battle against starlings:

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Using a bird of prey to ward off a fellow bird species that can cause thousands of dollars in crop damage is showing very positive results and may be a growing trend among Willamette Valley blueberry farms:

POLLARD:  “We are using trained falcons to basically harass and chase starlings in a given area at a very intense level for many hours of the day for many weeks on end in order to create a predatory presence that is so intense that they don’t want to be in that area.”  :16

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Getty Pollard operates an Oregon based company that provides a valuable crop protection service for several blueberry growers. His falcons are trained for three months before working the berry fields:

POLLARD:  “Our goal is, we don’t even want starlings flying over the fields. If a starling if flying over a field, there’s a very good chance it is defecating. You can’t have ten-thousand starlings defecating on a food crop that is going into a human mouth.”  :15

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Traditional tools such as propane cannons, noise makers, balloons, or mylar tape may work on smaller operations some of the time, but can’t match the falcon for effectiveness. More growers are realizing it’s a costly service, but one that more than pays for itself when the crop remains undamaged. In Salem, I’m Bruce Pokarney.

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POLLARD says using falcons to patrol blueberry fields is the most efficient and effective way to protect the crop against starlings:

“When you are using shotguns or propane cannons or all those other techniques– and the mylar tape and the scary balloons and all that– they might work for a day or two or a week or a very short amount of time. But the starlings are very intelligent and they basically look at them and go, it’s not trying to kill me, it’s not chasing me, it hasn’t almost caught me, therefore I’m going to ignore just like it ignores a loud car driving by.”  :22

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POLLARD says the best technique for large blueberry farms is to use one bird for an extended period of time to make its patrols and then follow up with another bird to keep the presence up at all times:

“We started flying one bird more continuously and training that bird to basically go out, harass the flock, come back and get a food reward, then go back out and do it again. When I say harass the flock, I mean this falcon is flying a half a mile away from us, a quarter of a mile, a mile away. We are talking long distances.”  :16

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