Ralph Spry says the Spry Brothers Farm at Elkton, Md., has a partial solution to crop-damaging Canada geese and snow geese. And he'd know. Their farmland is on the major East Coast flyway, and many Canada geese have taken up residence in the area.
The farm's eagles, hatched and painted in the machine shed, help deter geese from making their wheat fields into major landing strips. The plywood eagles are mounted on fence posts and have big black landscape fabric "wings" that flap in the wind, making noise and motion on the ground to ward off geese.
But "You can't just put them out," Spry says. "You have to periodically move them around and stay with it."
Being herbivores, Canada geese selectively graze during winter and spring on parts of plants that are high in protein, notes Doris Ann Behnke, University of Maryland Extension Assistant in Cecil County. "So they find our small grain crops including cover crops, at the top of their food list. Resident geese and migratory geese can destroy a crop overnight if we aren't diligent in convincing them to move on to another location."
Controlling Canada geese populations or managing crop damage is seldom quick or easy, she adds. It usually takes time depending on the number of geese, the features attracting them to the problem site, and the length of time they have used that site.
The key to controlling damage is to make the problem site less attractive than
other sites they could use. Since you can't change the crop, or move the location of the field, scaring devices and hazing can be effective.
Spry's giant bald eagles have been successful for the last two years. "You might need to rotate them around occasionally," he adds. "But we have been real happy with them."
The success of these eagles might be related to the lower pressure of migratory birds than in recent past. But it makes a difference in the number of times geese land inthe field, notes Behnke and being able to change their habits even by a small amount can make a huge difference. "For the cost of the eagles, it's well worth giving it a try."