Ciesluk Farm Takes Aim at Nuisance Birds with Noise

The Recorder, August 23, 2016, by Andy Castillo

A pneumatic blast from a noise cannon exploded into the air, startling a few starlings, which took flight up from the cornfields of Ciesluk Farm.

To some in the Old Deerfield community, the blasts in the north meadows are a familiar sound. But last month, calls about gunshots in the meadows prompted the Police Department to investigate and to post a public announcement saying what the blasts were from.

Mike Antonellis, farm manager, said Ciesluk Farm uses at least four propane noise cannons in the north meadows to scare off birds. Powered by a car battery, the cannons can be heard all across the meadows and throughout the farm’s 120 acres of sweet corn.

Antonellis said the cannons fire at 130 decibels, and are timer-driven, firing randomly between one and 10 minutes starting around 6:30 a.m. till 8:30 p.m.

This isn’t the first year the farm has used bird cannons; Antonellis said the farm is concerned about its crops this year because of an unusually numerous amount of birds — which eat kernels, spoiling the corn.

“It’s such a nuisance,” he said. “When you pull up in the morning, there’s nothing. Then, there’s thousands of birds.”

In particular, Antonellis said the farm has battled red wing blackbirds and sparrows during the growing season.

The propane cannons are similar to other sound cannons used by farmers, many of which use speakers. The cannons don’t harm the birds or cause any other environmental concerns.

In certain fields, the bird problem is so bad that Antonellis said they’ve had to throw out half of the corn crop.

“It doesn’t rid the problem completely, but it keeps the birds moving,” the farm manager said. “This is the best alternative we have.”

An article by the U.S. Department of Agriculture about non-lethal wildlife management lists propane noise cannons as a good way to scare off unwanted wildlife.

In a form describing laws about migratory birds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife classifies propane cannons as harassment methods to keep birds away from crops, on the same list as scarecrows, dogs and trained raptors.

In the past, before government regulations, farmers used poison to keep birds away.

Other options to the bird problem include netting, which Antonellis said isn’t a viable option for the farm because of how much land it owns. He also said that the farm has tried using grape concentrate to give the husks a bitter taste.

“They’re always a field or two ahead of us,” Antonellis continued. “This year, they’re staying around longer.”

You can reach Andy Castillo
or: 413-772-0261, ext. 263
On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo