Wood pigeons’ love of sprouts proves headache

Peter Richardson
Peter Richardson
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Sprout growers are facing an increasing threat to their livelihoods from wood pigeons.

Many growers have invested in netting to safeguard their crops, according to Tesco.

Nets go up when the crop is small and are removed this month to allow picking in time for Christmas dinners but with the nets off, wood pigeons strike. Tesco sprout buyer Lance Canavan said there was no exact science to thwarting the birds.

“Growers have tried all manner of deterrents from small gas bangers to kites in the shape of hawks and flags that rustle in the wind. But after a while the birds get used to them and they become less effective.”

This year, the supermarket is trying rather festive tactics.

“This week we went down with some Santa scarecrows to see if they could protect our customers’ Christmas sprouts and so far so good,” she said.

The Christmas scarecrows have been erected at, among others, TH Clements near Boston in Lincolnshire, one of the retailer’s largest British suppliers of the divisive vegetable.

Richard Mowbray, the firm’s commercial director, said: “We are seeing more birds in the fields because of the rise in countryside environmental schemes with farmers encouraged to create grassland, plant trees, create hedgerows in order to boost wildlife.

“While it’s great to create a habitat for wildlife the downside is we have to keep a closer eye on our crops.”

Growing conditions have been much better than last year, however, and yields are expected to be up by ten to 15 per cent.

Peter Richardson, who planted a crop of 40,000 at Riverford Home Farm at Newby Wiske, North Yorkshire in June, said sprouts were increasingly popular: “We planted another 25 per cent this year to meet the expected demand from our customers.”