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USDA Tests New Bird Detection Technology

Posted by Gail Keirn, APHIS Public Affairs, Fort Collins, CO in Animals Plants
Jul 18, 2011

Recently, USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) scientists at the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) tested two new scare devices developed by private companies that include species recognition technologies─the Sonic Dissuader® and the Goose Guardian. The devices focus on pileated woodpeckers and Canada geese, aiming to prevent the damages caused by these two bird species.

Pileated woodpecker in study pen at USDA-APHIS National Wildlife Research Center
Pileated woodpecker in study pen at USDA-APHIS National Wildlife Research Center


The Sonic Dissuader® (Myrica Systems Inc., Canada) is designed to detect drumming and pecking by woodpeckers. Once detected, the device emits woodpecker and avian territorial and/or alarm calls to scare birds away. NWRC researchers evaluated the product for use with pileated woodpeckers.

“Pileated woodpeckers cause a lot of damage to wooden utility poles,” notes NWRC biological science technician Shelagh Tupper. “Unfortunately, like most animals, they can habituate to scare devices that go off at predetermined intervals. The idea behind the Sonic Dissuader is that it may prevent habituation because it only goes off when vibrations associated with pecking are detected.”

Tupper and colleagues did not detect any differences in the amount of time pileated woodpeckers spent pecking on poles with and without the Sonic Dissuader, but they did notice the birds spent more time on a pole immediately following the activation of the Sonic Dissuader. This supports field observations that pileated woodpeckers freeze when confronted with a predator. The Sonic Dissuader presents an interesting approach to damage control.

NWRC recommends further research testing distress calls or other repellents as potential deterrents in combination with detection technology.

Canada Geese

For years, maintenance managers and grounds keepers have used dogs to scare away Canada geese from ponds, parks, golf courses and other areas. Though effective, this method is time consuming and costly and produces results only when the dogs are present with their handlers. A variety of chemical deterrents and predator silhouettes have also been used with little or no success.

NWRC’s Dr. Scott Werner is evaluating the effectiveness of a new Canada goose deterrent called Goose Guardian (TKO Enterprises Inc., Colorado). Its patent-pending Image Sensor detects the presence of Canada geese and triggers one of several hazing methods to scare the birds away. The advanced, image analysis capability of the Goose Guardian allows it to discriminate between geese and other objects so the device may be deployed in areas with human traffic.

The Goose Guardian is designed for use on golf courses, parks, cemeteries or other areas inhabited by geese, to prevent geese from trespassing into areas where their droppings create a nuisance. Preliminary field test results by TKO have demonstrated that the Goose Guardian’s Image Sensor successfully deters geese when detected. One such demonstration includes a two month pilot program at a National Cemetery, where geese were successfully deterred from sidewalks and funeral service areas.

NWRC has made recommendations to improve the device’s auditory and visual hazing methods. Controlled cage studies at NWRC are planned for this fall.

Category/Topic: Animals Plants