One of the biggest challenges to raising cherries (besides rain or cold spring weather) is birds. They just love the fruit, and cherries seem to fit in their life style perfectly, bite size and (usually) bigger, leafy trees to glide in and out of easily unseen. And who can blame them? Cherries are a great fruit.
There are a few strategies farmers have come up with , with varying degrees of success. The most effective is netting, a physical barrier to keep them out. Its quite effective but when you’re talking about covering acres of cherries it gets difficult and expensive. Though it is being done, usually a metal pole frame is built and then the net can be pulled on and off, with the net covering the whole orchard, but again an expensive proposition. Another common practice is to use sound in a attempt to scare the birds. A couple of noise makers I’m aware of are the distress calls and cannons. The distress sirens put out wounded bird sounds in an attempt to convince the birds this place isn’t a good place for them, and the cannons fire off loud booms to scare them off (imagine a large caliber gun going off a couple times a minute, all day long). Then there’s the more old fashioned ways, Mylar reflective tape, hawk or owl kites suspended above the trees, terror eye balloons and blow up snakes. Another strategy is to divert our avian friends with a planting they might like as much or more then cherries, a trap crop. Mulberries and Service berries have the benefit of ripening in basically the same time frame as cherries. (More on Mulberries later)
For our earliest variety (Chelan) we have to net the tree or we won’t get any fruit from them. We also usually net our next variety (Van) , but by then the Service berries and Mulberries are starting to ripen and the birds diffuse a bit , still eating some cherries, but not as concentrated as when the Chelans are the only fruit anywhere close to ripe. When we have a full crop in the trees , the birds get a bunch of fruit but there’s usually enough for us, when there’s a light crop we have to protect the fruit or we won’t get much at all. It seems like no matter what you use, with exception of netting, the birds adapt to whatever scheme you use and still manage to get some fruit.
Some of the birds we have here during cherry time are American Robin (of course), Western Tanager, Bullocks Oriole, Cedar or Bohemian Waxwing , Red Shafted Flickers, Evening and Pine Grosbeaks, Stellar Jays and Starlings. We love birds and birdwatching, but it is frustrating and conflicting when they’re eating up our livelihood!