Some farmers across the country are using inflatable “dancing” tube men, which are normally used to lure potential buyers to car lots, for a new purpose – scaring away birds that threaten their crops. The dancers have been used at several vineyards and farms in New York, Michigan, Washington, and other states.
The $200 million bird problem is especially troubling to growers of grapes and blueberries. The chief culprits that damage the most crops are American robins and European starlings.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is sponsoring a $2 million, three-year, multi-state study of bird-related damage to crops, a problem that has not been examined in-depth until now. The study has pilot-tested several bird-deterring strategies, including the inflatable dancers, recorded distress calls and predator noises, and kites decorated with pictures of raptors attached to poles placed in fields. Cornell University, which is participating in the study, was awarded $517,000 and is studying the effectiveness of the air dancers.
The inflatable air dancers seem to be working, but researchers want to conduct further testing to determine the extent of their effectiveness. They believe the dancers’ random movement is what makes them a better deterrent than traditional scarecrows, which stand still in one place. Birds can get used to the scarecrows after realizing that they are not a threat.
The inflatable dancers need power to move, which requires generators or another source of electricity. Companies in several states sell the inflatable men, which tower over 15 feet tall, to farmers to scare away birds that threaten their crops. The dancers come in multiple colors and with reflective tape, move randomly, and have noisy fans. That combination of factors seems to make the inflatable dancers a useful way for farmers to deal with their persistent bird problems.