For the Birds
Youngberg Hill Vineyard in McMinnville has teamed up with George Fox University students and staff to address the issue of invasive introduced bird populations’ effect on native species and grape crops.
On March 17, Dr. Don Powers, professor of ornithology and ecology at George Fox in Newberg, and 20 of his students conducted the vineyard’s first native species bird count.
This survey is the first step toward addressing the negative impact of birds such as non-native European starlings on Youngberg Hill and other local vineyards. Youngberg Hill owner/winemaker Wayne Bailey estimates starlings cost the vineyard up to 30 percent of their grapes in years when the harvest is late, as it was in 2011.
Starlings and other non-native bird species are flourishing in the Northwest, to the detriment not only of winemakers but also native species. Many wildlife biologists are convinced that the starlings are causing irreversible harm to western ecosystems.
In an effort to measure and foster the health of the native bird species living in the habitat surrounding their vineyard, Wayne and Nicolette Bailey, in cooperation with George Fox, hope to perform bird counts on a regular basis.
The Baileys are also enhancing the native bird habitat around their vineyard through the planting of native shrubs and the installation of starling-proof feeders, nesting boxes and raptor poles.