Falcons For Grapes Project Takes Off


The annual cacophony of bird bangers and shotns used to deter birds from fruit and grape crops in Marlborough, New Zealand, may soon be a thing of the past. An ecologically sound solution to the annual damage done to New Zealand's grape harvest by fruit eating birds may soon be achieved thanks to a ground breaking initiative. Following extensive cooperation between government agencies, Forest and Bird, growers and a UK based consultancy specialising in 'green' solutions, the 'Falcons for Grapes' project is now set to start this spring.

 Although the endemic New Zealand Falcon winters on the Marlborough plains, coming from nests in the ranges nearby, there is nowhere on the plains where they can nest safe from introduced predators. The project aims to provide nest barrels and a 'seed' population of falcons in order to expand the population back from the hills onto the plains. An intrinsic part of the programme is to study the falcons both in the hills and on the plains in order to understand what is limiting their numbers and what can be done to halt their decline. The Falcon is New Zealand's last endemic bird of prey; the Haast's Eagle became extinct international markets there is increased pressure on habitats and on farmland. This project is aimed to help both the falcons and New Zealand farming, especially the new wine industry. For Marlborough wines to succeed, the problems of reducing bird damage whilst maintaining a landscape that is pleasant both for people and wildlife have to be faced. By supplementing their food we hope the falcons can deter pest birds rather than catch them. It is also an opportunity for the wine industry to contribute to understanding the ecology of this native bird, potentially providing a win win result to all parties'.


funding 14% of the project at this stage, with a view to providing further funding if the trst three years of development are looking positive. A further 15% of the funding will be sought elsewhere to fund a PhD student studying the falcons.

The project has already received a number of inquires from people wishing to assist in monitoring falcons. The Raptor Association of New Zealand has many members in the area and those wishing to participate in conserving falcons should contact the Falcons for Grapes Manager, Mr Colin Wynn wynncoli@snap.net.