Green light for laser trial

Monday, 26 June 2023

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Green light for laser trial

Keeping black-cockatoos safely out of orchards

 BirdLife Australia and orchardists in Dwellingup, Western Australia, are joining forces to tackle a common cause for concern: black-cockatoos in orchards.

Baudin’s Black-Cockatoos are notorious for their love of pome and stone fruit, much to the dismay of growers in south-west Western Australia. Current methods of exclusion, such as fruit netting, and scaring techniques, including gas guns, are often expensive, labour intensive and noisy. Worst of all, the smart black-cockatoos quickly adapt, with many scaring techniques becoming less effective over time.

This trial will use an innovative bird-friendly autonomous laser deterrent system, developed by the international Bird Control Group, to keep these critically endangered birds off the orchards. Laser deterrents present an opportunity for a long-term, bird-friendly orchard management.

The lasers work by triggering bird’s natural fight or flight instinct upon seeing the green light approaching, making them flee. “The non-harmful laser is dynamic, and the constantly changing path of the beam means the birds have a much harder time adapting to the ‘threat’,” said Michelle Kerr from Bird Beam, Bird Control Group’s local partner.

“In addition to the benefits to orchardists in protecting their crop, keeping these charismatic birds out of orchards could be a benefit to the conservation of the species”, added Dr Aline Gibson Vega, BirdLife Australia’s Black-cockatoo Project Officer. “The Recovery Plan for Forest Black-Cockatoos, which includes the Baudin’s and Forest Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, states that finding cost-effective means to mitigate fruit damage — and hence keep birds off orchard properties — is key to their population recovery.”

This initiative forms part of BirdLife Australia’s Communities working to help black-cockatoos project, a partnership with the Alcoa Foundation, which also supports BirdLife Australia’s annual Great Cocky Count.

“Supporting black-cockatoo conservation is a central to this partnership,” said Alcoa Foundation representative Rebecca Miniken. “This trial has the potential to achieve big wins both for our black-cockatoos and local communities.”

BirdLife Australia is excited to be partnering with local landholders to see whether this developing technology can be used to keep black-cockatoos from damaging crops for good. The Bird Control Group laser system has already shown promising results in deterring other species of cockatoos from macadamia farms in New South Wales and parrots from apple farms in Victoria, reducing bird-related damage by 90%.

BirdLife Australia hopes this initiative will shine a light on a way forward for long-term, effective, bird-friendly orchard management in south-western WA.