We are currently in peak season to reassess pest and vector control as many areas that have experienced elevated concern for seasonal crop contamination, detected by routine pathogen testing programs and association with patterns of outbreaks are seeing a rise in pressure during late season production and harvest. Many times, these potential carriers of pathogens are associated with adjacent crops during and following harvest activities. At the same time, production is transitioning to other regions and planning for enhanced pest monitoring and control is underway. Birds, as potential pathogen vectors and bird control is one of the most challenging aspects of large and smaller open field production for reduction of crop damage, crop loss, and prevention of foodborne pathogen contamination. Bird control is also frequently a challenge in semi-enclosed production and more open-access packing facilities. One of the additional considerations in selecting a bird control strategy or device is that certain birds can be very desirable and beneficial in cropping systems if their locations and activities can be managed and directed.
Despite the clear historical evidence for diverse bird species as pathogen vectors in specific outbreak situations, the carriage and shedding of pathogens of concern, including E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, is generally a fraction of a percent of captured birds and fecal samples (See Resources below). During recent FSMA Produce Safety Rule grower trainings, this apparent limited risk potential always surfaces among participants while reviewing the tactics, options, and limitations of bird intrusion management. Control of flocking birds is generally the highest priority for solutions, and I routinely hear the frustration in the general limited effectiveness of most of these bird deterrent tactics. The most common issue is that many bird species readily habituate to the tactic. Some bird control measures and products include static and in-motion visual scare or harassment, indiscriminate noise or targeted sound, some of the laser-based deterrent and redirection options, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with bioacoustics.
There are several novel systems that appear to be effective in managing the limitations and may be cost effective for specific applications and crops. I wanted to provide attention to a few options I have had a chance to explore and have been getting more attention among diverse ag producers, including fresh produce. Selection of these solutions provides options to further investigate, and does not represent an endorsement by PMA, but reflects assessment of the foundational technology and grower input as to satisfaction with the results of on-farm demonstrations. If you have some personal experience with these or others you feel are effective for your situation, I would be interested to hear from you at
Bird Control Systems
Smith OM, Snyder WE, Owen JP. Are we overestimating risk of enteric pathogen spillover from wild birds to humans? Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 2020 Jun;95(3):652-679. doi: 10.1111/brv.12581. Epub 2020 Jan 31. PMID: 32003106; PMCID: PMC7317827.
Smith, O. M., Edworthy, A. Taylor, J., Jones, M., Tormanen, A., Kennedy, C. K., Zhen, F., Latimer, C. E., Cornell, K., Michelotti, L., Sato, C., Northfield, T., Snyder, W. and Owen, J. 2020.
Agricultural intensification heightens food safety risks posed by wild birds. Journal of Applied Ecology. doi: 10.5061/DRYAD.Z8W9GHX8Z. Navarro-Gonzalez, N. et al "Carriage and Subtypes of Foodborne Pathogens Identified in Wild Birds Residing near Agricultural Lands in California: a Repeated Cross-Sectional Study." Applied and Environmental Microbiology 86.3 (2020):
e01678-19. Web. 24 Sept2020. Jay-Russell, Michele and T. Suslow. 2016. Evaluation of falconry as an economically viable co-management strategy to deter nuisance birds in leafy green fields.
CPS Final Reports Karina Garcia, Elissa M Olimpi, Daniel S Karp, David J Gonthier, The Good, the Bad, and the Risky: Can Birds Be Incorporated as Biological Control Agents into Integrated Pest Management Programs?, Journal of Integrated Pest Management, Volume 11, Issue 1, 2020, 11,