Bring in the big guns. Magpies are being lured in to help ward off smaller birds that feast on grapes.
Fruit-eating birds like starlings, rosellas and thrushes cause substantial damage to Australian vineyards, in some cases munching through 80 per cent of the fruit.
Farmers try to deter them using balloons that look like predatory birds, gas cannons that let off loud booms, and reflective tape that flutters in the wind. However, the birds soon wise up to these tricks and ignore them.
Another strategy is to cover the vines with netting, but this is labour-intensive, expensive and makes the grapes harder to spray.
Now, Rebecca Peisley at Charles Sturt University in Australia and her colleagues have come up with a cheap, easy, environmentally friendly alternative that halves bird damage to grapes.
In each of six vineyards in Victoria, they installed two wooden perches, each designed to attract large, aggressive birds like magpies and predatory birds like falcons – both of which can scare off small grape-eating birds.