One of a vineyard manager’s worst early morning sights is walking among their vineyard and finding fruit damaged by birds. To combat this force of nature, growers have traditionally tried expensive and labor-intensive methods of mitigating bird damage in their vineyard. They’ve used sound-emitting devices, introduced other large birds of prey, placed netting in the fruiting zone and even tried netting the entire canopy, ultimately learning that nothing has truly provided an economic or socially acceptable solution to the problem. Luckily, the industry has been buzzing about a new solution that has shown spectacular results from guarding against bird damage without any netting whatsoever.
Falcon Crop Protection has developed a falcon-shaped kite that is attached to a moveable pole and behaves like a real bird of prey. Their “FrightKite” looks like the real deal and has proven highly effective in fending off birds that would otherwise do damage to valuable crops.
We spoke with Dan Warwick, Winemaker and Vineyard Manager of Paradise Ridge Winery, on the types of issues his vineyard was facing and what made these kites worth the investment.
“Before the kites, we ended up installing netting over the vines which was expensive and labor intensive. It was better than nothing, but some birds were still able to get under the netting and damage the fruit, sometimes getting trapped inside the netting. It’s not only about the loss of fruit, we then had to add more labor to go through and drop the bunches that were damaged. When you have fifteen acres of vines and the netting costs anywhere from $1,000+ per acre, you are talking about a major expense. Not only that, but there was an entire process required to make it work. You had to install the netting, which required hiring a crew, then later you’d have another crew lift the same netting to harvest the grapes and then ultimately remove the netting afterwards. It was a hassle and required a lot of labor. Worst of all was that it only helped a little, and still didn’t eliminate bird damage 100%.”
On discussing his decision to give the FrightKites a chance, Dan says, “I had seen the kites at tradeshows and saw a spotlight article touting their effectiveness. I figured I’d give it a shot – since I’d already tried the netting – and I was astonished by the results! I had no damaged fruit! It was unbelievable! I ordered some more kites for this year’s harvest to put in all my vineyards.”
“An added bonus to the other benefits is that they’re also bird friendly,” he says, “I don’t want to kill the birds or have them get trapped in the netting, I just want them to not eat my fruit.”
Dan’s story and experiences are not unique. In fact, there are an increasing number of similar reports from growers and managers about the effectiveness of the FrightKites. Vineyards from Paso Robles to Healdsburg have reported a 95-100% repulsion rate of birds – and most are ordering multiple kites to continue to protect their investments.
Dave Crockett, vineyard owner in Sonoma County, had this to add, “This season at veraison I installed two Falcon Frightkites in my 5-acre vineyard and there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of Finches and Starlings in the area, which has virtually eliminated all our bird damage. Working for a vineyard manager in the area we are testing the results in a 650-acre vineyard and by all indications the kites are absolutely reducing bird numbers and damage.”
“We LOVE our Falcon FrightKite. Not only are they amazing to see & a great conversation piece, we did NOT put up ANY bird netting last year and we had zero bird damage” noted Kevin and Wendy, Owners of Tara Bella Winery, on their success with the Falcon FrightKite.
Falcon Crop Protection’s FrightKite is an amazing tool that vineyard or winery owners should not hesitate to learn more about to see if they can reduce or eliminate bird damage in their vineyard at a reasonable price, and without harming the environment. Dan adds, “The kites are also really kind of amazing to watch – they move just like a real falcon! Seriously though, all positive feedback and no negatives on my end. I’m one happy customer.”
Check out our video and testimonials at www.falconcropprotection.com. For questions or to see if Falcon FrightKite is right for you, contact us today!