Doggone Birds (Fruit Protection)

Many bird species provide biocontrol by eating a wide range of insect pests, and are worth encouraging for controlling flies, mosquitoes, locusts, caterpillars, ticks, rodents and other pests around homes, forests, farms and gardens. Other bird species are considered pestiferous when feeding on our food plants, and can be repelled in various ways, including by loud noises, eyespot balloons, reflecting tape, scarecrows and scare devices, sensor networks and dogs.

Among the beneficial birds when they are not causing damage to utility poles or annoying people with their racket are woodpeckers. Personally, I like hearing woodpeckers working urban and forest trees, and was heartened to learn from Michigan State University’s Andrew Tluczek’s presentation to the Entomological Society of America (ESA) annual meeting that: “Woodpecker predation has caused up to 90% mortality of emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) larvae in some sites.”

A 2006 tick control article in BioScience magazine devoted considerable discussion to birds for tick biocontrol. In Africa, birds known as oxpeckers (Buphagus spp.) provide biocontrol of ticks on mammals by consuming hundreds of adult ticks or thousands of nymphal ticks per day. Free-ranging guinea fowl experimentally tested around New York (USA) lawns reduced adult blacklegged tick numbers; but unfortunately the smaller nymph stage blacklegged ticks transmitting Lyme disease apparently were missed and not stopped very well.

The list of bird benefits for biocontrol, like barn owls for rodent biocontrol in Israel, Palestine, Malaysia and elsewhere could go on and on.

“Bird damage situations throughout the world are similar, involving many of the same crops and genera of birds,” wrote John W. De Grazio a few decades ago in the <em>Proceedings of the 8th Vertebrate Pest Conference. Seed-eating red-winged blackbirds, ring-necked pheasants, sparrows, crows, doves, parrots, munias, queleas, weavers and waterfowl are sometimes pests of corn, rice, wheat, sorghum, sunflowers, almonds, pecans, peanuts, etc. Starlings, sparrows, finches, grackles, robins, parakeets, etc. consume grapes, blueberries, and other fruit in yards, vineyards and orchards.

Dogs are used in pest control for sniffing out termites and bed bugs, and the natural proclivity of some dog breeds to chase birds can be harnessed to keep birds from destroying fruit in orchards and vineyards. In researching a grant proposal to travel to and write about Japan, which I failed miserably to qualify for, my Internet research for the proposal took me to the Japanese Journal of Farm Work Research. Being one of a select 4% of the USA population to have worked in agriculture, the journal title intrigued me enough to browse through several years of tables of contents, where I came across an intriguing article title: “Protection of Citrus From Bird Damage by a Dog.”

Not reading Japanese, I had to rely on the visual diagrams and English summary by researchers Hiromichi Ichinokiyama and Masami Takeuchi at the Kinan Fruits Tree Laboratory and Mie Prefectural Science and Technology Promotion Center:

“Effectiveness of a dog (Canus lupus familiaris) for protecting citrus fruits from bird damage was investigated using a citrus orchard (5.8 a in area) in the harvest season. In Experiment 1, a Border collie shepherd (male) was tied to a wire extended along one side of the square orchard to allow him to run along the inner side of the orchard. This watchdog system was effective in reducing fruit damage by birds (mainly brown-eared bulbul) only in the citrus tree row nearest to the dog runway.”

However, the researchers had better success letting the dog run free in the orchard:

“In Experiment 2, the orchard was enclosed with a tall chain-link fence and the same dog was allowed to move freely in the orchard. In this case, he persevered in chasing birds until they flew away from the orchard. This watchdog system effectively reduced bird damage to citrus fruits all over the orchard, resulting in an increase in crop yield…Further study is needed on the optimum number of dogs released per unit orchard area and the effectiveness of the watchdog system in case when this bird control system is spread to all orchards in the citrus-growing area.”

Like Richard Feynman’s Nontoxic Ant Ferry, dogs chasing birds away from trees laden with fruit or nuts is more a proof-of-concept awaiting further development than a fully developed technology you can order on the Internet.

Thank you to the organizations and people who created and are advancing the Internet, as even finding this sort of information would have been nearly impossible a few decades ago. Amazing how this high-tech infrastructure can advance low-tech solutions like the old-fashioned four-legged, tail-wagging dog as a bird-chaser in service of better fruit harvests.

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6 Responses to Doggone Birds (Fruit Protection)

  1. what do you think…

    [...]Doggone Birds (Fruit Protection) « Biocontrol Beat[...]…

    Joelg replies: Interesting blog on getting rid of mice, with two superb videos.

    BTW, outdoors birds (e.g. owls, raptors) and lots of other animals provide mouse biocontrol. Perhaps a dog can do double duty, chasing off mice and keeping birds away from ripening fruit and grain. Might be a fun thesis project for a grad student.

    Your blog says:

    Having a pet cat may help. As what is known by everybody, cats are always on the hunt for mice. Having a cat doesn’t simply bring a furry and also adorable creature at your home but additionally a warrior in getting those mice out.

    I know people who have had success with cats providing biocontrol of mice in their homes.

    Can’t speak to everything you write about for controlling mice, and am not sure how you would get enough carbon dioxide gas (carbonation) into mice stomachs via soda pop. But certainly getting rid of wood, trash, high grass, food and water sources (sanitation), etc. make good sense as part of mouse population reduction.

    Nice video on sealing up entry holes to keep mice out. Second video gives a good overview of mouse control tactics, and I would highly recommend it, too.

    Very good blog/video. Keep up the good work.

  2. Fencing Machines…

    [...]Doggone Birds (Fruit Protection) « Biocontrol Beat[...]…

    Joelg notes (from Nalaw Holdings Pty Ltd web site link):

    “…a wholesale company, importing agricultural equipment serving the farming and grazing communities in Australia…provide a wide variety of agricultural fencing products, services, equipment and support in Queensland and beyond…equipment for rolling up old fencing wire, plain or barbed. The wire can then be reused if required. We have equipment that can roll out and tension manufactured wire ringlock while simultaneously rolling out and tensioning barbed wire. We also have a full range of post drivers, wooden post bark peelers and post sharpeners…a family owned company…quality hydraulic wire winders, fencing machines and tree stump grinding machines…”

  3. Jennifer says:

    I have found that when I treat my dog’s bedding with flea and egg control spray that he itches less often. That is probably because a lot of the fleas die when he rolls around in his bed. You just have to find a spray that is pet friendly and will not poison them. Im sure this method will help with any pets including ticks too.

  4. hello I just want to leave a comment that I like your blog

    Joelg replies:
    Thank you. Nice juicer review on your site.

  5. fish tanks says:

    fish tanks…

    [...]Doggone Birds (Fruit Protection) « Biocontrol Beat[...]…

    Joelg replies: Cool saltwater fish photos, like snorkeling the reefs.

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