Bird Control 'Scarey Man' Inflatable Scarecrows
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OverviewThe ‘Scarey Man’ inflatable scarecrow is an electrically operated bird control scaring device based on the traditional scarecrow and operating from a battery power source. Scarey Man has its main application in the agricultural sector and is used to scare a wide variety of agricultural pests such as wood pigeon and the corvid family (crows, rooks etc.). Scarey Man is also commonly used as a bird control device to scare seagulls in both urban and rural applications, waterfowl and herons from lakes and ponds and birds from fruit and vegetable crops.
The Scarey Man inflatable scarecrow is a 5’6” tall inflatable man constructed of heavy-duty and brilliantly coloured PVC. Scarey Man is fully automated and inflates every 18 minutes for 25 seconds throughout daylight hours, switching off at night. Alternatively an optional pre-set timer can be fitted providing 4 set periods of operation every 24 hours. During operational periods the device inflates and deflates as well as emitting a loud noise. Scarey Man can also be used at night via an optional extra light sensor which will illuminate the unit over and above its standard operation. Both noise and illumination can be switched independently. A variable timer is also available as an optional extra which allows the user to adjust display frequency.Scarey Man inflatable scarecrow is operated via a 12-volt battery with the unit running for 14 days between charges. A ‘battery low’ indicator light is provided to alert the user when the unit needs to be re-charged. The battery can be housed either inside or outside the base unit with the internal battery housing being impervious to most weather conditions.
Most bird control scaring devices, static or otherwise, fail to be effective as a stand-alone deterrent and need to be complimented with other scaring and anti-perching products in order to be effective. The main benefit of Scarey Man over traditional static bird control devices is that the product incorporates movement, sound and visual stimulus in one unit. Although there are minor disadvantages inherent in the use of Scarey Man, (such as the fact that the device can be blown over in strong winds when sited in exposed areas), the product appears to offer the potential to be effective in many different applications and for the control of a wide range of species.Scarey Man has been used to great effect in numerous countries worldwide including the USA and Canada, Australia and many European countries. Scarey Man will act as a scaring device for both birds and animals. Bird species that it has been used to deter include crows, collared doves, seagulls, cormorants, pigeons, starlings and magpies. The unit has also been successfully used to deter protected species of birds and waterfowl such as swifts and swans.
Although Scarey Man was designed with the protection of crops in mind, there are numerous other applications for the device. Scarey Man can be used to stop herons from predating on fish in fish farms and fishing ponds, making the device a good commercial option for fish farmers and fishing clubs alike. Scarey Man has also been trialled by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) as a scaring device to deter gulls from competing with nesting terns. Scarey Man can be used as a bird control device to deter birds from exploiting fruit in vineyards and orchards as well as protecting ground-hugging fruit crops such as strawberries. There are many other applications for this device, including urban applications, making it an extremely versatile bird control device with low running costs and the added advantage that the product is completely humane and non-lethal.
The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is the UK’s Government body that oversees the Wildlife and Countryside Act and produces legislation to which the pest control industry must adhere. The following information is taken from a document provided on DEFRA website entitled: ‘Review of international research regarding the effectiveness of auditory bird scaring techniques and potential alternatives’. By J Bishop, H McKay, D Parrott and J Allan.
“Predator models, such as scarecrows, are common, traditional methods used in attempts to scare avian pests. They mimic the appearance of a predator and so cause birds to take flight to avoid potential predation (Harris and Davis 1998). Most scarecrows are human-shaped effigies, usually constructed from inexpensive materials; Knittle and Porter (1988) report that simple scarecrows made from black plastic bags attached to wooden stakes are effective at deterring waterfowl from grain fields, as long as the effigies are put out before the birds arrive.”
“In general, however, motionless devices either provide only short-term protection or are ineffective as the threat from them is only perceived rather than real. In a survey of hatchery managers in the United States only one of the 14 hatchery managers who commented on the effectiveness of various control techniques said that scarecrows had a high success rate. Six said they had no effect (Parkhurst et al. 1987). Some birds may even come to associate them with favourable conditions (Inglis 1980).”
“To maximise effectiveness devices should possess biological significance, appear lifelike, be highly visible and their location changed frequently in order to extend the period of habituation (Vaudry 1979). The effectiveness of scarecrows may be enhanced if fitted with loose clothing and bright streamers that move and create noise in the wind (Vaudry 1979) - effectively becoming a moving visual.”
“Recently, several types of moving, inflatable human effigies have become commercially available. One of these, the Scarey Man inflatable scarecrow is marketed worldwide. Created by a Cambridgeshire farmer the Scarey Man is a life-size plastic effigy powered by a 12 volt car battery, that inflates rapidly, emits a high pitched wail and may illuminate at night. Inflation occurs about every 18 minutes and lasts for 25 seconds. According to the Pest-Away Australia website, one Scarey Man costs AU$1390.00 and can give up to 6 hectares of crop coverage. For smaller sites, the Scarey Boy is now available (Clarretts Ltd.).”
“Australian testimonials on the Pest-Away Australia website state that the use of Scarey Man is effective at preventing crows from damaging melon crops. Andelt et al. (1997) tested it’s effectiveness at deterring black-crowned night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) and great blue herons (Ardea herodias) from a fish rearing unit in Colorado. Two manikins were programmed to activate for 35-40 seconds every 9-10 minutes from about 1700 or 2045 through to 0800 hours in order to frighten birds during their peak feeding times. Numbers of birds were reduced only during the first four nights of the trial. After that time, numbers of both species increased significantly. Birds quickly habituated to the manikins and so Scarey Man was deemed ineffective at scaring herons from the fish-rearing unit.”
“Stickley and King (1995) also used Scarey Man to repel double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocoax auritus) from catfish ponds. Ten mannekins were deployed, an average of one for every 14 hectares of surface water. Cormorant numbers dropped during the first week of use, but by the 11th day it was felt they were beginning to lose their effectiveness. Despite trying to enhance its effect by placing hats and camouflage masks on the devices, changing their positions and substituting shooters for Scarey Man, levels of birds could not be reduced further. Despite some habituation within two weeks, the overall conclusion was that Scarey Man could only be recommended in cases where cormorant depredations were a serious problem.”
“Other animated scarecrows have met with varying success. Conniff (1991) describes a jack-in-a-box device with inflatable arms, revolving strobe lights and amplified sounds (130dB, distance unknown) of horns honking, people shouting, shotguns and birds screaming. This scarecrow was declared ‘ineffectual’ against cormorants.”
“Another device developed and tested by the Denver Wildlife Research Centre (Cummings et al. 1986) combined an inflatable plastic scarecrow with a propane exploder. Costing about US$900 (or US$14/0.4 hectares (1 acre) based on a ten year life for the unit), this was effective for deterring blackbirds from sunflowers in some fields; it was less effective in fields where the birds had an established feeding pattern.”
“Ultimately, however lifelike, under most circumstances scarecrows do not present a threat that is sufficiently alarming to birds (Inglis 1980). Over a period of time birds learn that effigies or models do not represent an actual threat and are no longer alarmed by them. To increase the threat and therefore the habituation time, it is recommended that these devices be reinforced with other sound-producing or visual deterrents. Ideally, for example, scarecrows should be periodically reinforced by human activity.”
The Scarey Man inflatable scarecrow is currently available in the UK and for worldwide distribution. The price of a basic unit is £320.00 + VAT ranging though to £395.00 + VAT for a unit with all the optional extras included.
RSPB – Coquet Island
The RSPB has trialled Scarey Man on one of its reserves off the coast of Northumberland. Coquet Island is home to approximately 30,000 pairs of breeding seabirds including 3 species on the RSPB’s ‘Red’ list (species of high conservation concern) and 5 species on the RSPB’s ‘Amber’ list (species of lower conservation concern). The increase in numbers of herring gull and black-backed gull was a cause of concern in relation to competition with the tern for nesting space and also the predation of tern eggs and chicks by both species of gull.
The RSPB employed a number of different bird control devices in an effort to deter gulls from impacting on the tern population and these controls included the use of gas guns, distress calls, human disturbance, ‘humming line’, scarer rope and Scarey Man. The following comments are taken from an RSPB document entitled ‘The effectiveness of different methods of deterring large gulls Larus spp. from competing with nesting terns Sterna spp. on Coquet Island RSPB reserve, Northumberland, England’ by P Morrison and RI Allcorn:
“Initially a traditional scarecrow, constructed from two sticks, a plastic head, a boiler suit and a fluorescent jacket, was used. This was erected after the puffins had arrived back. In 2004, an inflatable scarecrow, a 'scary man' was introduced. Once activated the scary man inflates and deflates five times every eighteen minutes. Scary man was modified in 2005 to be activated by remote control from a hide. There is a light and a siren attached to the inflatable, both of which can be operated independently of each other. The scary man was re-positioned regularly whilst deployed to maximize its effect. It cannot be used in strong winds, as it is easily blown over, reducing its effectiveness.”
“The original scarecrow had some success within the puffin nesting areas, with gulls avoiding the immediate proximity but had less success in reducing overall gull numbers on island.
“2004 was the first year that the scary man was used. It was targeted against gulls loafing on the south beach. Juvenile gulls flew off immediately after the initial inflation whilst adult herring gulls only flew on the fifth inflation. During the period when it was intended to deploy the scary man, there were few gulls on the intertidal zone and the weather conditions were unfavourable, rendering any judgements of its usefulness questionable. To be most effective the scary man needs to be positioned as close as possible to the sites the gulls use, but as all the control switches are on the scary man itself, the presence of the person setting up or activating the scary man tends to scare the gulls away. More trials need to be conducted to find out the true effectiveness, including night scaring trials (using the light and siren) and to investigate the potential for remote control or pre-programming (as done in 2005). A hide might be needed from which to undertake observations to assess its effectiveness, as otherwise human presence might confound the results.”
“The scary man did scare gulls from the beach with the return rates of the birds being between 10-15 minutes. Given the correct timings on inflation, this could prove a useful deterrent to gull roost formation and the establishment of breeding territories. There was a limited affect on non-target species, mainly black-headed gull, oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, fulmar and shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis, but these returned to the area within a few minutes.”
International Paper, Inverurie Mill
A large paper milling plant based in Scotland, some 18 miles from the coast, purchased 2 Scarey Man bird control scarers in 1999 in an attempt to resolve entrenched seagull roosting problems at their milling plant in Inverurie. The mill was experiencing growing problems with gulls roosting on roof areas of the plant and management decided that action needed to be taken.
The problems being experienced by the mill were described as akin to something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s film ‘The Birds’ by Site Services Supervisor Gary Morrison with huge numbers of gulls being attracted to the site for the purposes of roosting. Interestingly no breeding was taking place on the site and the problem was present all year round, not just within the breeding period as is often the case with gull-related problems. Prior to the introduction of Scarey Man scarers, the roof areas were cleaned by an outside contractor and a total of 22 tons of guano was removed from the roofs. This clearly demonstrates the extent of the problem. Guano was found to be blocking drains and causing water ingress problems throughout the site.
One employee suggested trialling Scary Man having seen the product demonstrated on a farming programme as a crop protection of system. Gary Morrison contacted Clarratts, manufacturer and distributor of Scarey Man, and purchased two units for use on an 8000 square metre flat roof. The 2 units were installed on the roof and had an instant effect on the roosting gulls. The gulls immediately moved to the rear area of the roof but were still prepared to use the roof as a roost, albeit as far away from the bird control scarers as possible. Gary Morrison ordered a further 6 units and installed them on the roof – this had the desired effect. The gulls moved from the roof in question as soon as sufficient coverage was achieved by the product.
The gulls then moved to another roof on the site and this time netting was used to protect the 14,000 square metre roof. The bird control netting operation was carried out ‘in-house’ at a total cost of £16-£17,000.00. The company chose to install netting ‘in-house’ based on quotes in the region of £120,000.00 from pest control contractors for netting the roofs.
Gary Morrison explained that they only experienced two minor problems with the product:
The first problem was accessing the roof for the purposes of charging the battery units used for running the devices. The company contacted the manufacturer of Scarey Man and for a small extra charge the units were wired to run on alternating current (AC) rather than on the batteries which use a direct current (DC). This completely resolved the issue.
The second problem was the issue of noise from the audible siren. The Scary Man units were being used throughout the night rather than the day based on the fact that the problem they were being employed to deal with was an overnight roosting problem rather than a daytime perching problem. An employee living 1 mile from the site had been able to hear the noise created by the siren on a still night with no wind. As the units offered switching capabilities the noise element was simply switched off and this completely resolved the problem.
As a bird control scarer the product has been 100% successful as far as International Paper is concerned and although the Scarey Man scarers are still installed on the flat roof areas they have not been activated for the last 3-4 years. This confirms that the product will not only have an immediate effect on the target species when installed and operated as per manufacturers specifications, but it will also induce enough fear into the birds to ensure that they do not return.
The following testimonial is provided by Geoff and Tanya Young, farmers in Queensland, Australia:
"Since purchasing a bird control Scarey Man twelve months ago, we have had outstanding success at scaring birds from our crops. In the past we have used various types of scarers including gas guns and hawk look-alikes, but none of these were anywhere near as effective as the Scarey Man inflatable scarecrow.
We grow various crops throughout the year, including melons and pumpkins and have finally managed to find a way to keep the crows from ruining our crops. Scarey Man has also been successful at chasing away feral pigs, which used to cause a lot of damage.
We find that by placing bundles of material similar in appearance to Scarey Man at intervals around the crop and swapping the real Scarey Man with the 'dummies' regularly, we can cover a much larger area, as the birds remain wary of everything that may be a real Scarey Man.
Soon after purchasing Scarey Man, we ordered a Variable Timer from Pest-Away Australia to add to the element of surprise. Scarey Man was already by far the best scaring device we had come across, but with the extra element of surprise of the timer, he was even better.
Scarey Man had paid for himself within the first week, when he successfully protected a melon crop from crows.
David and the staff at Pest-Away Australia have provided us with excellent service and we can thoroughly recommend them and their Scarey Man as a great bird control product."
Comments from the Manufacturer/Distributor:
The following description of Scarey Man is taken from the Clarratts website:
“Scarey Man is an excellent bird control device for use in a wide range of situations. Using a unique combination of sound and movement he strikes fear into his target prey and keeps them away for longer periods than 'conventional' control devices.
Scarey Man can be used in agriculture to deter birds and predators. Protecting young crops from damage (such as pigeon damage in Oil Seed Rape) is no problem, and by keeping pests away Scarey Man can pay for himself very quickly. Field scale crops of all kinds (arable, vegetable, ornamental etc.) can be protected as can orchards and vineyards. Livestock are also protected by Scarey Man, as are fisheries where herons and other fish loving birds need to be deterred.
Whilst Scarey Man was designed originally for bird control in agriculture his use has quickly spread into a multitude of other areas. For example he is used in airports to keep runways clear, and on commercial/residential properties to prevent fouling by pigeons and other birds.”
Michael Barratt, Director of Clarratts said the following about Scarey Man as a bird control product:
"The sudden movement with surprise is the secret success for "The Scarey Man". The inflatable scarecrow which operates electronically and automatically combines sudden movement, a loud noise, a bird phobic colour (red) and illumination at night, depending which model you require.
Birds and predators faced with these surprise effects are first distracted from feeding and then systematically frightened away from the area as "Scarey Man" continues to deflate and then re-inflate to a commanding height and an intimidating size on a time basis. During operation Scarey Man emits a loud noise and illuminates at night - functions that are independently switched on all models.
The display takes place about every 18 minutes and lasts for approximately 25 seconds as the "Scarey Man" rises and falls, long enough to drive off the pests.
The entire operation carried out by "Scarey Man" may be automatically synchronised to daytime or night-time using a light sensor. Alternatively a pre-set timer can be fitted to set the timed programme you require during a 24 hour cycle.
Sales of "Scarey Man" are for different uses all over the world from pigeons on oilseed rape in the UK to red-billed quelea on wheat crops in Tanzania, cormorants on fisheries and protecting grapes in Australia."
Editorial comments:Scarey Man is a versatile and inexpensive bird control scarer that is simple to set up and use and that has relatively low running costs. The unit will hold a 14-day charge (dependent on application and frequency of timed displays) making it a low maintenance option if powered by a battery (DC current). If sited in inaccessible areas the unit can be powered by mains power (AC current) to reduce maintenance. The cost of a basic unit is extremely low relative to other powered bird control scarers and even with all the added extras included, the cost is still under £400.00 per unit representing excellent value for money. The main benefit of Scarey Man over its competitors is versatility with the unit combining three commonly used scaring techniques - noise, light and movement. The fact that the unit is programmable makes it even more versatile and the long list of animals and birds that the product has been used to deter supports the manufacturer’s claims in this respect.
Although Scarey Man was originally designed for use in the agricultural sector, urban applications for the device appear to be far-ranging. Scarey Man has been used to deter a massive roosting flock of gulls from a paper mill in Scotland with a 100% success rate and without using any complementary anti-perching or scaring devices. To have achieved such comprehensive success without the use of complementary controls is almost unheard of, certainly where the control of roosting gulls is concerned. Although the siren was deemed to be a minor nuisance, based on the fact that the unit was being used at night in this application, the switching options allowed the user to switch off the siren whilst still using movement and light as a deterrent. The other minor problem was the man hours required to access the roof area where the units were sited in order to re-charge the batteries every 14-days. This problem was easily resolved by wiring the units to be powered by AC current.
Scarey Man would also appear to be a good bird control option where the control of feral pigeons on roof areas is concerned. One of the most difficult problems for any property owner to manage is how to stop pigeons from perching on pitched or flat roofs. When combined with an anti-perching product such as the anti-roosting spike (and the ridge spike) Scarey Man could be used to great effect as a complementary control in this application.
Scarey Man could also be used on flat roof areas where breeding colonies of gulls are an annual problem. A conventional flat roof bordered by a low wall or parapet is an ideal urban breeding site for many species of gull, with noise and guano-related problems presenting serious issues for residents or those working in the building. By providing a Scarey Man on the flat roof itself, and by installing gull anti-roosting spikes on the wall or parapet, the roof will be far less attractive to gulls. It must be understood, however, that any action taken to deter breeding gulls must start well in advance of the breeding period. Once breeding has started gulls will not be deterred by any scaring device, although anti-perching spikes will physically prevent the birds from accessing those areas where the product is installed.
DEFRA’s view is that Scarey Man can be effective in some applications but may need to be used in conjunction with other scaring techniques in order to be completely effective. As with most bird control scaring products, DEFRA’s research found that the target species habituates to the device rapidly and therefore Scarey Man may only be appropriate where more serious and entrenched problems are concerned. DEFRA went on to say:
“Over a period of time birds learn that effigies or models do not represent an actual threat and are no longer alarmed by them. To increase the threat and therefore the habituation time, it is recommended that these devices be reinforced with other sound-producing or visual deterrents.”
As Scarey Man combines both sound and movement as well as light it would appear that the product fulfils most of the criteria set out by DEFRA in order to be effective as a stand-alone device.
The RSPB had mixed results when using Scarey Man to control herring gulls and black backed gulls on Coquet Island reserve off the coast of Northumberland. Juvenile gulls were deterred immediately when Scarey Man inflated but adult birds were less worried by the device. The RSPB moved the device regularly in order to increase effectiveness and also modified the device so that it could be operated by remote control from a hide. The one problem the RSPB did experience, however, was the ease with which the unit could be blown over in strong winds, seriously compromising its effectiveness.
The RSPB concluded that more research had to be undertaken to maximise the effectiveness of Scarey Man including trials to assess the effectiveness of the product when used at night. Summing up the RSPB said:
“The scary man did scare gulls from the beach with the return rates of the birds being between 10-15 minutes. Given the correct timings on inflation, this could prove a useful deterrent to gull roost formation and the establishment of breeding territories.”
Scarey Man clearly has a future where the scaring of a wide variety of pest species is concerned and none more so than in the control of gulls in urban or semi-urban environments. Trials carried out by the RSPB suggest that Scarey Man may not be appropriate in exposed applications where it would be difficult or impossible to tether the device to ensure that it did not blow over in strong winds, but in urban or agricultural applications the product clearly has major benefits. As with all scaring products, however, Scarey Man may need to be provided in conjunction with other scaring/anti-perching products to be completely effective and there will be situations where the target species may habituate to the device.
PDF on DEFRA website entitled: ‘Review of international research regarding the effectiveness of auditory bird scaring techniques and potential alternatives’ By J Bishop, H McKay, D Parrott and J Allan.
‘The effectiveness of different methods of deterring large gulls Larus spp. from competing with nesting terns Sterna spp. on Coquet Island RSPB reserve, Northumberland, England’ by P Morrison and RI Allcorn International Paper Ltd: Quotes from Gary Morrison, Site Services Supervisor, International Paper Ltd, Inverurie, Scotland
Also commonly known as:
Inflatable scarecrow, predator balloon, inflatable scarer, inflatable bird scarer
Relevance to pigeon control:
‘Scarey Man’ is a scaring product used mainly in the agricultural sector for the scaring of birds such as the wood pigeon. ‘Scarey Man’ has relevance to feral pigeon control in as much as it may complement an existing anti-perching system