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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Environmentally Friendly Bird Abatement

Harvest damage from pest birds in California is estimated to total in millions of dollars. There is a better, more efficient, solution for bird abatement, and it’s also GREEN.

“When falcons are present, pest birds flee,” reports Patrick Wagner about his business, Wagner Falcons, offering professional bird abatement services. “Falconry can protect up to 98% of crops from damage and disease created by pest birds.”

Patrick has 30 years of falconry experience. He began at age 15 and today is totally committed to being a steward of the earth to preserve and protect our resources.

Falconry is better than poisons. Better than killing. Better than netting and other abatement practices. Falcons scare the birds away and bird pests don’t return!

Time, devotion, husbandry and communication

“We have a team of falcons and hawks that are trained to provide protection over large agricultural tracts. I am always excited to see what they do and how they communicate, and I’ve studied this for years. You have to be willing to branch off the ancient forms of falconry into this new way of training and communicating. You have to be devoted. It’s nature against nature,” explained Wagner.

“So you are out there in the fields, trying to be the conductor, but at the end of the day, the training is in reverse. I’m the one that is trained. If you discover their signals, boy have you stepped up your game! For the best abatement, you have to spend time with each bird, sometimes up to 14 hours a day.”

“By introducing a natural predator into their environment, pest birds will leave the area. Since average fruit loss from pest birds is estimated to be 10 to 20% of vineyard crops annually, this highly effective, GREEN method of bird abatement has returned to the agricultural scene in a big way in recent years,” he added.

Using a crew of four to eight falcons, flown regularly on vineyards from ripening through harvest, will provide maximum protection to avoid loss of fruit and costs from removing damaged fruit during harvest and processing.

The Team

The abatement team consists of a Peregrine, Gyr-Peregrine, two Aplomado falcons, and two Harris hawks. All are uniquely trained, each with a different style of flying. They are worked several times a day, and trained.

The falcons have an incredibly intimidating presence and are trained to harass and chase off pest birds. The object is not to kill, but to be rewarded to remain in the air for more time to effectively cover the crops. “You have to break the feeding patterns of pest birds before they become uncontrollable,” Wagner explained.

Falcon Eco-friendly Bird Abatement - What’s the process?

Wagner Falcons does an onsite presentation, acreage and site assessment, analyzes needs and duration, estimates past losses and current abatement measures and techniques, and determines how the abatement services can preserve and increase yields, and therefore maximize the value of the harvest. Wagner even comes to a site with several falcons to introduce them to owners and vineyard managers.

“Through use of the falcons, we can replace any ineffective and costly methods used previously. I try to convince everyone that I offer a better solution to the problem,” Wagner continued.

Abatement Beyond Vineyards

Pigeons can be a problem at a dairy farm. A little falcon named Bluebell can chase these pigeons away! Bluebell goes directly after them and drives them like a school of fish or a herd of sheep.

Another example is getting seagulls out of the landfill, best done with a large Gyr falcon named Odessa, who chases these birds off with a gleam in her eye!

How are the birds trained?

“You start out a relationship working with young birds just learning to fly. You attempt to communicate and at some point it starts to trust you. You listen to it.”

“We have a lot of different sounds for training. A click helps connect the communication. We start with a short leash, then go to a longer leash and the goal is to have the bird fly back to us and make the choice to return. In the end, we have gained the field control needed and work on dives or aerial maneuvers.”

What’s in the bag?

Each bird has several sounds, hand signals and equipment: a lure, a feather that looks like a wing, and something that flashes.

Paying Forward

Wagner Falcons donates time to help wildlife causes. They support The Wildlife Rescue of Napa County at their annual event “A Wild Night at the Castle.” There’s a great video on the website about eco-friendly bird abatement.

Unique Event & Field Presentations

Educational presentations are also available for schools or fundraising events. Wagner Falcons brings a team of falcons and hawks for up-close presentations and free-flying demonstrations.

SHOUT OUT AND THANK YOU to the grape growers who follow green abatement practices, husbandry and environmental stewardship. They are listed on the Napa Valley Vintners website within the “Environmental Leadership” section. Here are some that specifically work with falcons: Schug Carneros Estate Winery, Etude Wines, Moshin Vineyards, Cuvaison Estate Wines, Trinchero Family Estates, Bouchaine Vineyards, Robert Craig Winery and Maroon Wines.

For more information about Wagner Falcons visit and check out the spectacular and informative Vineyard Bird Abatement video on the website.

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