What you told us about bird control in your vineyards

This winter the Grape Growers of Ontario organized workshops on bird control in vineyards in Kingsville, St. Catharines and Bloomfield. During the workshop OMAF conducted surveys using I-Clicker technology, which wirelessly records answers to questions put to participants. In a confidential manner, both participants and workshop leaders learn more about the group's dynamics. Although 65 people attended the workshops, only one person from each operation was asked to respond. Forty nine (49) operations were thus surveyed. Here are some results:

Growers ranged in size from under 25 acres (40% of participants) to those over 200 acres. As many as 3000 acres of vineyards were represented by participants, or 20% of the industry.

Participants were shown 4 pictures of the same cluster of grapes holding 82 total grapes. One picture showed 6% of its grapes removed (only 5 grapes which were hard to recognize); the next had 12% removed; the next 18%; the next 24%. The purpose was to demonstrate it is not easy to estimate bird losses by looking at a cluster. For this reason, it is very possible that growers underestimate bird losses. When asked about the amount of damage they would have on their farm without bird control participants said they would have 20% bird losses with NO bird control measures, but have 10% bird losses even with their current bird control measures. This is still a very sizable loss.

We asked participants about their use of netting of regular crop, not for ice wine. As one might expect, smaller growers had a higher % of their grapes netted than larger growers. However, prorated based on acreage, 14% of acres were netted or about 1 out of every 7 acres. Intuitively, this seems high, but there is no industry statistic on acres netted to my knowledge. However, this would mean over 2000 acres are netted out there. Growers overwhelmingly said the main impediment to more acres be netted was the cost of netting. Despite this, growers overwhelmingly (93%) said the number of netted acres will either remain the same, or increase in coming years.

A question was asked about the use of bird bangers. Some participants owned none at all, while the largest growers owned more than 15. Almost 200 bird bangers were owned by the collective group and with there being about 3000 acres represented, we can assume there to be about 1 bird banger for every 15 acres of vineyard out there. Again, assuming there are a total of 15,000 acres of grapes, this translates to about 1000 bird bangers being used by the Ontario industry. Growers seemed to believe bird bangers were working with about 75% saying bird bangers were somewhat effective, effective or very effective. About 15% said bird bangers were effective beginning of season, less effective later.

Since readers know OMAF gets complaints about the use (or misuse) of bird bangers, we asked the question; bird bangers should not operate in the dark, but we get lots of complaints about this. Would you favour your local by-law officer contacting growers to inform them their bird bangers are operating at night and to take action as necessary? We were surprised to find 70% of participants answering 'Yes' or 'Maybe'.

Aside from nets and bird bangers, growers told us that shotguns, electronic scarers and scare pistols were about equally the next effective control method, followed by visual scarers.

After the survey above was completed, Ian Frensch, C. Frensch Ltd, Beamsville, a supplier of bird control equipment spoke, along with me on a number of different topics on bird control. On behalf of Ian and myself, I'd like to thank the GGO for organizing these workshops and for the host wineries and Brock for hosting us. We all learned a great deal about bird control from each other.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca