May 23, 2017
Duncan Family Farms employs falcons as bird abatement

Duncan Family Farms, a 100 percent organic grower specializing in baby lettuces and greens, kales, beets, chards and herbs, is using an innovative method for bird abatement at its Goodyear, Arizona farm: falconry. They have collaborated with Falcon Force, who use a team of trained falcons to intimidate and scare off nuisance birds such as the horned larks and pigeons that frequent the area.

For nearly all vegetable growers, small birds can be a problem – they not only eat seeds after they’ve been planted, but can also shed feathers or defecate in the fields, triggering additional food safety measures. Previously, Duncan Family Farms would have personnel walk the fields with shakers or slings to scare birds away, but the birds get accustomed to the noise and people quickly, becoming progressively harder to chase off.

According to a news release, Falcon Force uses the natural predator/prey relationship to deter the nuisance birds long term – their main goal is to chase the nuisance birds away and not kill them. Once a horned lark sees one of its natural predators flying and swooping nearby, it’s going to immediately find a safer place to forage for food. An additional benefit of the trained falcons flying in the fields is that native predator birds will also leave the area to find new hunting ground, meaning they are less likely to kill a prey bird in the field and cause a food safety issue or product loss.

“It’s pretty amazing to see the results – we can actually watch the nuisance birds leave the area and not come back,” said Jeremy Vanderzyl, Technical Services Manager at Duncan Family Farms. “A single falcon can cover a large area effectively and efficiently and allows us to avoid putting our personnel in uncomfortable or potentially unsafe conditions.”

As an organic grower that is committed to sustainability, Duncan Family Farms was motivated to find an effective process that did not involve the use of traditional approaches such as flares, firecrackers, or Mylar, all of which are harmful to the environment and have the potential to leave debris in the fields and cause product losses. These methods are also not effective long term as birds will get used to them in about 48 hours.  

“It’s immediate, it’s sustainable, it’s organic and it’s biodynamically perfect,” said Kalen Pearson of Falcon Force. “Birds are always going to be afraid of other birds; it’s never something they’re going to get used to like a scarecrow or noisemaker.”

Falcon Force was at Duncan Family Farms in Goodyear through the end of April and Duncan has plans to continue the relationship at other growing locations with different bird abatement challenges such as large migratory birds like ducks and geese.

Duncan Family Farms is a family-owned, multi-regional grower of over 8,000 acres of certified organic produce, specializing in baby lettuces and greens, kales, beets, chards and herbs using sustainable, state-of-the-art farming practices. Founded in 1985 by Arnott and Kathleen Duncan, the company is one of the largest growers of organic produce, nationally recognized for their environmentally-sensitive farming techniques and premium-quality food for processors, retail and foodservice distributors. To learn more, visit here.

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