Evaluation of Novel Bird Repellants in Vegetable Crops

2015 Annual Report for ONE15-249

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2015: $14,908.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Darcy Telenko
Purdue University

Evaluation of Novel Bird Repellants in Vegetable Crops


Bird damage is a persistent problem for vegetable producers. In an attempt to help our growers mitigate this pest we evaluated novel bird repellants on four vegetable farms in western New York. In this pilot project year the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Cornell Vegetable Program found the chemical deterrent Avian Control (methyl anthranilate) and the “air-dancer” successfully dissuaded birds at all farms increasing yield 1 to 19% with an average increase return of $22-$418/A.  The participating farms were excited about the potential of these deterrents in reducing their losses from bird damage and support future evaluations to refine the best management tactics.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Four on-farm demonstration trials were set-up in sweet corn to evaluate the bird repellants. Two farms were located in Eden, NY, one in Ransomville, NY and the fourth in Belfast, NY. All farms assisted in observing bird migration, sweet corn maturity and application of the chemical deterrent treatments on their farm.

At each location bird activity was monitored starting July 7. The number and identity of birds flying in and out of the field locations were enumerated between 2 and 8 times at participating farms, which was dependent on crop maturity and bird migration. Digital images were captured when possible.

Crop maturity at each field location was determined by counting the number out of 100 ears that had brown silk and then determining a score based on a scale of 3< 34% silk brown, 4=34-66% silk brown, and 5=67-100%. Ear damage was recorded by counting the number of ears damaged and number of kernels damaged from 10 ears in 20 locations within each treatment plot. Maturity and damage data was collected at least 8 times at each farm during the trials. Images of bird activity and damage were documented.

Preliminary statistical analysis has been completed. Results are being complied for presentations at the 2016 Empire State Produce Expo and winter fresh market meetings planned for 2016.

We received initial feedback from the growers in August and are in the process of completing a formal survey.  We aim to finalize the results and summarize the findings for educational programming scheduled in early 2016.


  1. Met with four cooperating farmers (Mark Zittel, David Agle, Jeffery Hurtgam and
    Andy Byler) in June to discuss project. We identified the location, planting dates and projected harvest dates of sweet corn fields at each participating farm on July 7 at Zittel and Agle farms and July 13 at Hurtgam and Byler farms.
  2. Monitored bird activity starting at the silking stage to detect first migration of the birds on July 7 at Zittel and Agle farms and July 13 at Hurtgam and Byler farms.
  3. Determined locations to set-up treatments, mark areas in field and collaborated with the individual grower to apply foliar sprays of Avian Control, Mylar hawk eye balloons and air-dancers (were able to purchase two to trial at Hurtgam and Zittel Farms since Avian chemical was donated by chemical company). Initial treatments were applied on July 13 at Byler farm, July 22 at Hurtgam farm and July 23 at Zittel and Agle farms.
  4. Set-up spray plan with each grower to reapply the Avian Control. Each farm was only able to get Avian out twice before harvest. After the initial treatments the growers observed successful deterrence of birds and wanted to continue testing in additional fields. We ended up running three trials at Zittel’s, one trial at Agle’s with an additional data collected from an untreated field, two trials at Hurtgam’s and two trials at Byler’s.
  5. Data collection for bird activity began on July 7 and 13, and crop maturity and damage started July 13 and continued weekly through harvest. Each farm was visited eight to 10 times during the growing season with a total of 35 individual collection dates.
  6. The final harvest dates were August 10 at Agle’s, August 18 at Hurtgam and Byler’s, and August 19 at Zittel’s.
  7. The four growers were initially surveys on their experiences in August. A formal survey is still in progress.
  8. Initial data analysis was completed on September 15. Final data analysis is in progress.
  9. Develop educational outreach material for dissemination to growers –a research update factsheet was created and presented at a Fresh Market Vegetable Twilight meeting in Eden, NY on August 19 (see pdf), by Darcy Telenko with over 25 participants. In addition Darcy Telenko presented a five-minute update on the initial results at the NEIPM First Online Conference on October 20, 2015. A video of this conference is available at http://neipmc.org/go/fEhT
  10. Additional educational outreach is scheduled for January 20 as a topic in the sweet corn session at the 2016 Empire State Produce Expo and at winter fresh market meetings planned early next year. 

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Initial bird damage was high, 86% of ripe sweet corn ears were damaged overnight at one location. 10% damage was recorded where other tactics were being deployed – air cannon and nuisance permit.

Data gathered from the four participating farms found untreated plots experienced 2 to 30% damage. Average harvestable ears were increased 4.2% with two applications of Avian Control and the air-dancer will work on small scale 9% increased yield compared to untreated plots. 

We estimated from the data we collected that Avian Control and the “air-dancer” successfully dissuaded birds at all farms increasing yield 1 to 19% with an average value of $22-$418/A. Success was highly dependent on application timing, placement, and crop maturity.

Cooperating vegetable producers were excited about the initial results and support future research to further refine best management practices for bird control and expansion to determine if some of the tactics, such as the air-dancer, can be used for other wildlife deterrence. The cooperating farms plan to implement one or a few of the techniques in future seasons.


Robert Hadad

Extension Educator
Cornell University
2449 St. Paul Boulevard
Rochester, NY 14617
Office Phone: 5857394065
Mark Zittel

3275 Webster Road
Eden, NY 14057
Office Phone: 7162003142
Jeffery Hurtgam

3226 Ridge Road
Ransomville, NY 14131
Office Phone: 7164712274
David Agle

7915 Gowanda State Rd
Eden, NY 14057
Office Phone: 7167136908
Andy Byler

6810 Route 305
Belfast, NY 14711
Office Phone: 5853652183