Bird depredation of grapes in Niagara vineyards : a novel approach to identifying spatial and temporal trends /
Department of Biological Sciences
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Although local grape growers view bird depredation as a significant economic issue, the most recent research on the problem in the Niagara Peninsula is three decades old. Peer-reviewed publications on the subject are rare, and researchers have struggled to develop bird-damage assessment techniques useful for facilitating management programmes. I used a variation of Stevenson and Virgo's (1971) visual estimation procedure to quantify spatial and temporal trends in bird damage to grapes within single vineyard plots at two locations near St. Catharines, Ontario. I present a novel approach to managing the rank-data from visual estimates, which is unprecedented in its sensitivity to spatial trends in bird damage. I also review its valid use in comparative statistical analysis. Spatial trends in 3 out of 4 study plots confirmed a priori predictions about localisation in bird damage based on optimal foraging from a central location (staging area). Damage to grape clusters was: (1) greater near the edges of vineyard plots and decreased with distance towards the center, (2) greater in areas adjacent to staging areas for birds, and (3) vertically stratified, with upper-tier clusters sustaining more damage than lower-tier clusters. From a management perspective, this predictive approach provides vineyard owners with the ability to identify the portions of plots likely to be most susceptible to bird damage, and thus the opportunity to focus deterrent measures in these areas. Other management considerations at Henry of Pelham were: (1) wind damage to ice-wine Riesling and Vidal was much higher than bird damage, (2) plastic netting with narrow mesh provided more effective protection agsiinst birds than nylon netting with wider mesh, and (3) no trends in relative susceptibility of varietals by colour (red vs green) were evident.