For the birds—Round Lake Vineyards & Winery employs laser tag tactics to scare birds off vines

As grapes are ripening on vines, vineyards prepare for harvest in the coming month. Just as eager to get at those grapes are birds who can nibble away at a vintage and cause serious vineyard loss.

At Round Lake Vineyards & Winery, a sci-fi-type solution is giving them new hope to keep the pecking predators at bay – a laser system that shoots roving lights as a scare tactic.

Owner Scott Ellenbecker said, “We’ve tried noise canons that sound like gunshots, scarecrows, even a few of those dancing blowup people like you see in front of car dealerships. Electronic bird calls work pretty well as they send sounds of birds in stress and sounds of predator birds. And, of course, we use netting.”

Netting is probably the most reliable method to keep birds off the grapevines. It is labor intensive to work with across Round Lake Vineyard’s 30 acres or 19,000 plants. Plus, netting is cumbersome during harvest. Netting purchasing cost and maintenance is ongoing because nets form holes that let in birds and vines can grow through them.

The Autonomic 500 laser system, sold by the Bird Control Group, doesn’t harm birds in any way. Lasers have been used at berry farms, airports and to keep birds away from toxic water. Round Lake Vineyards & Winery just set up the laser system that will shoot a beam through the vines that are visible to the birds even in daylight. Birds are being scared away by the motion. “It’s working so far. Everything works at the beginning, it’s the goal to see if the results last to harvest.”

Lasers for shooing away birds are green, because they can see that best. The lasers move at varying speeds and directions so even smart birds don’t get accustomed to any pattern.

It’s difficult to measure actual loss due to birds. Round Lake can lose tons of grapes to the pests in just a few days. Some birds remove the whole grape and others peck at the fruit and leave it open to infection. Even seeping juice can spoil a bunch and cause fungal rot on the plant.

Round Lake Vineyards & Winery still uses electric noise machines, and nets and in some areas, but its goal is to minimize labor by using the Autonomic Laser system.

Ellenbecker said, “We’re open to trying new things to keep our vineyard from becoming a giant birdfeeder. We don’t blame them for wanting to eat our grapes – they’re delicious! We just want to send them somewhere else.”

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