On Abatement

Bird abatement is something that falconers are asked about fairly often.

Many species of birds cause damage to property when they descend in huge flocks on agricultural fields, strike aircraft, or defecate in sensitive areas such as near a waste treatment plant. Blueberry farms can lose up to 40% of a year’s crop to raiding birds; dairy farms can lose literally a ton of feed in a month to starlings alone.

Traditional methods for deterring pest birds include poisons, lethal traps, and pyrotechnics. Poisons are hard to control, impact species other than the target, may poison predators (“secondary” poisoning) when the dying birds are eaten, and are not permitted as organic farming methods. Traps also are non-discriminatory, capturing protected songbirds or other non-target species. Pyrotechnics or other flash noise/light displays annoy neighbors and the birds learn they can simply ignore them within a relatively short period of time.

Recently, many of these industries have looked for methods that have no negative impact on the environment to achieve the same results. Raptors are a natural predator of many species of birds. Just seeing the form, the silhouette, of a falcon in the air can be a significant, natural, consistent deterrent to nuisance birds. They can’t “learn” to ignore their natural predator!

While bird abatement with a trained raptor is not falconry, some falconers do work in abatement, employing raptors and basic falconry techniques to get the job done. Although a raptor may catch one a bird from time to time, abatement is not hunting; abatement is flying the raptor in a visible manner designed to provide a consistent threat from above which the problem birds instinctively cannot tolerate.

The use of raptors is safe, natural, and highly effective.  Here in Washington state raptors are used to keep airfields clear for safe takeoff and landing, to chase starlings and other nuisance birds away from organic blueberry fields and vineyards, and to prevent seagulls from carrying trash out of landfills and into neighboring communities.

One way those with land can make use of these natural pest deterrents is to invite falconers to hunt on your land. Falconers are always looking for more land to hunt on and will happily hunt pigeons, starlings, rabbits, English sparrows, and more. If you are interested in a formal relationship on an ongoing basis, however, you will need to contact a bird abatement company.

While the WFA does not focus on abatement, many of our members either have their own bird abatement company or work for one.

Further reading:

Blueberry Grower Guide to Using Raptors for Bird Management
http://www.berriesnw.com/FalconryHome.asp

Efficacy of bird deterrent devices in agricultural areas of the Fraser Valley
http://www.berriesnw.com/raptors/raptor_pdf/BCStarlingReport09.pdf

Bird Control in Production Strawberries with Falconry
http://www.berriesnw.com/raptors/raptor_pdf/FalconryStrawStudy.pdf

Best Practices for Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators in New York State
http://nwco.net/08-AppendixBNuisanceSpecies/8-17-Starling.asp

Farmers using falcons to chase winged pests
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705261799/Farmers-using-falcons-to-chase-winged-pests.html

Farmers using falcons to scare away foraging birds
http://www.newsvine.com/_news/2008/08/09/1734984-farmers-using-falcons-to-scare-away-foraging-birds

Falconry Used to Secure North American Airports
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/03/0325_030325_falconry.html

Regulatory memorandum regarding Abatement Activities Using Raptors
http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/mbpermits/Memorandums/Abatement%20Activities%20Using%20Raptors.pdf

Final federal regulations regarding raptor use in abatement
http://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2007/12/10/E7-23797/final-permit-conditions-for-abatement-activities-using-raptors

Washington State regulations regarding abatement activities
http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=232-30-530

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