The Scarecrow

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One blog I talked about bird scarers- the human ones. Obviously a boring and tedious job that probably paid minimum wage. So farmers devised a human substitute, the scarecrow. Why it’s not a “scarebird” or “scarestaring”, I don’t know, but the Egyptians were apparently the first to utilize one about 3000 years ago. The Greeks and the Romans followed suit. The Japanese erected bamboo poles covered with rags and fish and other smelly stuff and set them ablaze to deter birds from their rice crops. In medieval Europe, the scarecrows were sometimes topped with animal skulls or made to look like witches who they thought had the power to scare birds. Little by little all the cultures that used scarecrows made them to look like humans, sometimes arming them with bows and arrows, slings, or spears to make them look more menacing.

Nowadays we don’t use scarecrows much. Homeowners might rely on plastic owls or snakes, metal and mirrored flashers that blow in the wind, or just string or ribbon tied on poles around the garden. Farmers might use “bird cannons”, propane powered noisemakers to deter birds from rice or other crops. Cannons are the newest weapon in the Sanford-Orlando, Florida’s battle with birds, which can cause millions of dollars of damage to a plane’s engines, crash through a cockpit windshield or, in rare cases, even bring down an aircraft.

But bird experts say firing the high-tech cannons will do little to discourage birds, especially eagles, from gathering at the north Seminole County airport. The airport is tucked between two lakes which provide a bountiful source of fish for birds.

“The problem with the Sanford airport is that they put an airport in prime eagle territory,” said Lynda White, an EagleWatch coordinator for Audubon of Florida, referring to the lakes and the tall pines nearby. “It will scare them away, but they’ll come back. I don’t believe that creating a really loud noise will deter them permanently.”

A product called the “Eagle” is a bird scaring device that is basically a kite that is launched into the wind tethered to a pole and flaps its wings as it darts around the sky. There are also lasers, windmills, recordings of predators, loud sounds like sirens or whistles, and so forth.

The fact is that birds get used to most of these scaring devices. After a few days the birds get habituated and either do not react at all or react quickly and return to their old ways. More permanent solutions like poisons, guns, and nets are best left to wildlife professionals and only for serious situations. After all, what we are doing is putting buildings or something in birds’ habitats and growing stuff that they like to eat.

Meanwhile, have a bird problem? Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology recommends mylar balloons. Have a party and use the balloons to scare birds or vice versa!


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