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Farmers Use Falcons to
Protect Berries



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Grades 2-up

News Content

Falcons are an eco-friendly alternative to chemicals and other methods of protecting crops.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, write the word falcon on a whiteboard or a sheet of chart paper. Ask students to share what they know about falcons. Write down the information they share.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: chemicals, hire, guard, cannon, expensive, and acre. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • The big _____ that sits in the middle of City Park was used in battle during the Civil War. (cannon)
  • My mother says she cant afford to buy the _____ video game. (expensive)
  • Each of the new houses will be built on a half _____ of land. (acre)
  • The flames of the big factory fire were fed by barrels and barrels of _____ that were stored in the old building. (chemicals)
  • The bank ____ identified the robber in a police lineup. (guard)
  • Mr. Olsen, the store manager, needs to _____ two new clerks for the night shift. (hire)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Farmers Use Falcons to Protect Berries.

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

    Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

    Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

    Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • Henry and Sandi Rose, owners of Roses Berry Farm in Glastonbury, Connecticut, hired falconer Erik Swanson to help protect the farms blueberry crop from starlings. Swanson is an employee of Falcon Environmental Services, Inc., of Plattsburgh, New York. His services cost the farm about $400 a day. Thats a small price to pay, because the starlings can do $100,000 a year in damage to the blueberry crop.
  • Accompanied by eight trained falcons, Swanson spent the month of August at the farm. He worked 11-hour days, seven days a week, to keep starlings from the berries. "It's a war out there," Swanson told the Associated Press.
  • Swanson flies each of his eight falcons at least once a day. The falcons are trained to scare the starlings and return to him. He attaches a radio transmitter to the falcon's ankle just in case it does not return. The radio transmitter helps Swanson track down falcons that wander away; it saves them from attack by their predators, which include red-tailed hawks.
  • Falcons dont bother the farms neighbors like noisemakers, rifles, poisons, and other methods of getting rid of starlings. Another neighbor-friendly method of keeping berries safe -- covering the crop with netting -- would cost the Roses more than $200,000 to install.
  • The Roses used to use an insecticide to control the starlings. It irritated the birds throats so they would stay away. But the chemical is no longer available.
  • Falcon Environmental Services also provides falcons to airports. The falcons scare away birds that can get caught up in, and do damage to, airplane engines. And some landfills use falcons to disperse birds that flock there.
  • In California, falcons have been used to protect grape and berry crops. A company called B-1RD (pronounced B-one-R-D) uses falcons to scare away birds. The falconer works during the hours that starlings usually feed; he starts work at daybreak and works 4-5 hours, and then he returns from 3 p.m. to sundown.
  • Other animals are used to protect crops. For example, hungry bears are attracted to farmers corn and other vegetable crops as well as fruits, honey in beehives, and livestock. Some farmers use guard dogs to protect their interests against bears. And in many places where coffee is grown, birds such as the manakin are used to protect crops from a tiny insect known as the coffee berry borer. The tiny insect can destroy as much as 70 percent of a farmers coffee crop. Some farmers are planting trees near their fields in an effort to attract birds that might help save their crops.

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students if they learned anything new about falcons from this weeks News for Kids article. Add the facts that students share to the list compiled at the start of the lesson. In addition, you might share some additional falcon facts from this list compiled by teachers.

    You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

    Recalling Detail

  • Why are some farmers using falcons in their fields? (Falcons can be used to scare away birds that eat their crops.)
  • Why, do you think, do falconers have to work 11 hours a day? (Accept reasoned responses, for example, the starlings have to be kept from the crops all day long.)
  • Why did the Roses stop using chemicals to protect their blueberries from birds? (The chemicals are no longer sold.)
  • Why did the Roses stop using cannons to scare away starlings? (The noise from the cannons bothered their neighbors.)
  • How many acres of blueberries do the Roses farm? (40 acres)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. You might use the think-pair-share strategy with students to discuss this question. If you use this strategy

  • First, arrange students into pairs to discuss and list responses to the question.
  • Then merge two pairs of students together to create groups of four students. Have them discuss and add to the ideas they generated in their pairs.
  • Next, merge two groups of four students to form groups of eight students. Have students create a new combined list of ideas.
  • Finally, bring all students together for a class discussion about ways in which animals are used to control other animals and protect crops.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Listening comprehension. Getty Pollard trains falcons to protect farmers crops. Share with students this TV news video about Pollard and his work as owner of a company called B-1RD (pronounced B-one-R-D). After sharing the video, ask students to answer these questions.

  • In what state did this news story take place? (Oregon)
  • What is the name of Getty Pollards falcon? (Choco)
  • What does the word rouse mean as it relates to falcons? (a falcon rouses, or rearranges, its feathers before taking off)
  • Why does the falcon bob its head before taking off in flight? (to survey the land and judge distances)
  • How does Pollard train his falcons to scare off starlings? (He swings a lure in the air and the falcon swoops down to chase after it.)
  • What are some of the animals that might prey on falcons? (owls, bald eagles, foxes, coyotes)
  • What is it called when a falcon dives at a lure or its prey? (stooping)
  • How does Pollard travel among the rows of crops? (he rides on an ATV)
  • Why does Pollard call falcons a neighbor-friendly solution? (Falcons are quiet, non-lethal, sustainable)

    History. Falconry -- training birds of prey to help in hunting -- has been around for hundreds of years. Share with students a timeline of falconry history. Or perhaps students will want to learn more about how falcons are trained.

    Read aloud. Share with students the book The Malted Falcon by Bruce Hale.

    Science. Invite students to share their guess-timates about how fast falcons fly. Then share with students this brief National Geographic video that shares how scientists figured out how fast peregrine falcons really fly. After watching the video, discuss the science behind it.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science
    NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Economics
    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-EC.K-4.1 Productive Resources
    NSS-EC.K-4.2 Effective Decision Making
    NSS-EC.K-4.7 Markets and Market Prices
    NSS-EC.K-4.8 Supply and Demand
    NSS-EC.K-4.14 Entrepreneurs
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NSS-EC.5-8.1 Productive Resources
    NSS-EC.5-8.2 Effective Decision Making
    NSS-EC.5-8.7 Markets and Market Prices
    NSS-EC.5-8.8 Supply and Demand
    NSS-EC.5-8.14 Entrepreneurs
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NSS-EC.9-12.1 Productive Resources
    NSS-EC.9-12.2 Effective Decision Making
    NSS-EC.9-12.7 Markets and Market Prices
    NSS-EC.9-12.8 Supply and Demand
    NSS-EC.9-12.14 Entrepreneurs

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: World History
    GRADES 5 - 12
    NSS-WH.5-12.1 World History

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.


    Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2008 Education World