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Raptors pitched as a way to help Okanagan wineries deal with pests

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Raptors pitched as a way to help Okanagan wineries deal with pests – Aug 15, 2016

They may look harmless to most of us, but small birds such as starlings can cause a huge amount of damage to Okanagan vineyards.

The hungry birds like to eat up grapes before they can be turned into wine.

Now an organization that runs a raptor visitor centre on Vancouver Island, called The Raptors, is hoping to expand the use of birds of prey to control vineyard pests in the Okanagan.

Raptors include birds like eagles, hawks, owls and falcons.

A bird abatement program would see falcons and hawks used to control birds like starlings which eat the grapes at vineyards.

“You are working with a natural predator/prey response so the prey birds never habituate to [the raptors]. [The raptors] will fly around and usually just their presence is enough to chase away these birds from a specific area,” said Robyn Radcliffe, operations manager at The Raptors.
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It’s an idea that interests Ex Nihilo Vineyards in Lake Country. The winery typically puts up netting to protect the grapes from problem birds.

“We’ve always netted, but we know some vineyards in the south that have not and the birds can clean you out. They can ruin a whole crop,” said winery owner Jeff Harder.

Bird abatement is a tactic used elsewhere. It’s even been employed by the landfill in Salmon Arm. It’s used a hawk to scare off ravens and crows.

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