Founding the service was not a quick startup project. Obtaining a breeder’s license takes a couple of years, Lott said, and there are annual abatement permits for each state. The falconers must be licensed, too, he said, which comes after an in-house training period.
“Training of each falcon takes about three months,” Lott said. “Once trained, they must be worked regularly. You can’t just put them in a barn until you need them to work.”
What about the occasional bird that chooses not to return to the falconer?
“We haven’t had that problem,” Lott said, “but we lost one bird to illness and another was struck by a car.”
For more information on the program, go to www. americanbirdabatement.com.
Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash., uses kestrel falcons in some of its fields, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director. This year, the company is sponsoring a Future Farmers of America project to build more houses for falcons and hawks on its farms.
The company is donating scrap lumber from broken bins to the group, which is builds the kestrel houses for Stemilt to buy back as a fundraiser. The hope is that more growers can use these birds as a more wildlife-friendly way of solving the damage done by small birds on fruit crops.
“In cherries, you have huge losses to bird pecks, so people put out these Mylar ribbons, use cannons and even bird traps, which are kind of inhumane,” Pepperl said.
Pepperl said one of Stemilt’s growers with 100 acres used 17 nesting pairs and completely rid himself of his bird problem.
Note: Staff writer Ashley Bentley contributed to this article.