Home Wine Industry Spotlights Safeguard Your Vineyard: A Natural Solution to Protect from Bird Damage

Safeguard Your Vineyard: A Natural Solution to Protect from Bird Damage


Viticulturists in California’s Central and North Coasts predict a delayed harvest this year due to the cold, rainy spring. This postponement poses a potential threat to the grape crop, leaving it vulnerable to challenges from autumn rains, cooler temperatures, and smoke taint from wildfires. 

The delay does, however, provide grape growers with more time to prepare for a persistent challenge to wine grapes – bird damage. The critical moment is after bud break and before veraison when vineyards become prime targets for birds searching for food and a place to roost.

“The time to act is when the sugar content begins to rise and attract the birds,” asserts Dave Crockett of Kenwood’s The Dirt Farmer, vineyard services company. “Once the birds are drawn in, there’s nothing you can do to deter them. The key is to prevent them from noticing the ripening grapes in the fields below. With this year’s harvest delayed by one to four weeks, there’s still time to act.”

“Birds always look for areas where they can roost,” agrees Roger Snow, a renowned bird control expert. “They prefer elevated spots that provide a clear view of their surroundings and where nothing can creep up on them. You’ll often find them perched on power lines, scouting the area. It is crucial to stop the birds before they settle in.”

Natural Solution

Snow, the owner of Falcon Crop Protection, has 45 years of extensive experience in commercial bird control, serving clients in 22 countries. His portfolio includes managing the installation of products for such well-known organizations as The Vatican, The Dept. of Defence, Meta, and Google. He has also effectively cleared nuisance birds from aircraft hangers, shopping centers and hotels.

After residing in Marin for two decades, Snow bought a home in Healdsburg. His immersion in the local wine industry exposed him to the challenges grape growers face with birds, which inspired him to develop a solution—the Falcon FrightKiteTM.

His natural approach doesn’t introduce chemicals, make loud noises or require a lot of labor to install, a relief given current labor costs and shortages. Instead, the Falcon FrightKiteTM lives up to its name by mimicking the shape and movements of a falcon, gracefully perched atop a flexible fiberglass pole available in 22, 28, and 36-foot lengths. These poles are 5-foot telescoping rods that expand to soar the kite up to 60 feet into the air. Its natural swooping movement is created by attaching it via a ring equipped with a swivel at the pole’s end.

“We’ve been crafting our falcons by hand with premium materials for seven years now,” Snow explains. “I enjoy being part of the wine industry and being able to assure growers, “This will work.” The problem is that growers often leave solving the problem until too late. It’s harder to repel birds once they have eggs in the nests.”

Numerous small details ensure the kites are long-lasting. Falcon Crop Protection makes its own poles to ensure they don’t get brittle and shatter, uses a proprietary ripstop material that keeps the kites from ripping as the material expands, and forms the falcon shape with carbon-fiber spars that don’t snap like wood or bamboo.

“Birds can see that from a long way off,” notes Snow. “With just one Falcon, we can reliably protect 1¼ to 1½ acres, and deploying two Falcons expands the coverage to 3-4 acres. With the new 36-foot model, we’ve achieved up to 10 acres per Falcon because they’re flying so high.”

Opportunity for Vineyard Management Companies

Crockett installed Falcon FrightKitesTM throughout the 750-acre vineyard at Kunde Ranch. His assessment of their performance speaks volumes: “The kites work better than anything else I have tried in my 15 years in the business. Although nothing is perfect, the kites are as good a commercially-available solution as it gets. Its ability to move like an actual falcon at the end of the pole makes all the difference.”

Vineyard owners and management companies can easily install the kites, move them around to achieve optimum coverage, check on them regularly to ensure they’re operating properly, and then take them down after harvest and move them to another location, chasing the grapes as they mature.

Falcon FrightKitesTM can be seen flying above numerous vineyards, including neighbors Comstock Wines and Saini Vineyards in Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Valley and Parum Leo Winery & Vineyards, which you can see from US Route 101 just south of Petaluma. There’s even one that flies between home and third base at the Oakland Coliseum.

Snow reminds vineyard owners that the key to success is to “Get them up early and get them up high!” This year’s window is closing, so reach out to Roger at info@falconcropprotection.com or 415-789-5007 today.

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