On June 8th, TreeHugger posted an article titled, “A Little Help From Up Above: Israel is Replacing Pesticides with Owls and Falcons“. This article explains how farmers in Israel are now using owls, falcons and other birds of prey to keep pests from damaging their crops. In the past farmers were using pesticides and other chemicals to control rodent populations and protect their crops. Poisoning rodents has a detrimental impact on the birds that consume these rodents. Birds of Prey International reported that a large number of birds were dying after eating the poisoned rodents. The farmers have decided to let the birds do their dirty work. If the birds are going to eat the rodents either way, then why should the farmers pay for expensive chemical inputs. Now, farmers are building nest boxes in hopes that the birds will take up residence and eat the rodents. This relationship works out well for the farmers and for the birds.
Since Israelis are trying to reduce the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture this project has become a government funded national program. Jordanian and Palestinian scientists are helping with this project.
Israel is not the only country to use birds of prey to protect their crops. In the United States farmers don’t use birds of prey to eat unwanted rodents, but I don’t see why they couldn’t. US, berry farmers use birds of prey to chase away smaller birds that cause extensive crop damage. The birds of prey do not kill these small birds, they just scare them away. Think of the falcons as very successful scarecrows.
This is a great example of how farmers can work with nature to produce higher yields and as a result protect wild bird populations, which for years have been viewed in a negative light.