Wacky Waving Inflatable Tubes Save Vineyards From Grape-Stealing Birds

The tension between grape growers and hungry birds is at an all-time high. Standard-issue scarecrows have proven ineffective. Air cannons no longer startle. It's time to call in the secret weapon. Summon the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Men.

Yes, The Wall Street Journal reports that vineyard owners have turned to 20-foot-tall gyrating nylon tubes to keep grape-hungry birds at bay. Decked out in reflective tape for maximum bird bafflement, and renamed "Air Rangers" to fit the seriousness of their new task, the giants, formerly relegated to seedy used car lots and no-contract cellphone stores, have a new and honorable task: defending winemakers' flavorful, persnickety grapes from the constant appetite of the European starling.

The invasive bird, which has menaced growers since its arrival here in the late 19th century and has an estimated U.S. population of nearly 200 million, can decimate vineyards' crops. Worse still, the birds seem to choose grapes meant for expensive wines over those destined for grape juice. The jerks.

While some vineyards have experimented with the inflatable tube people in the past, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is running a study comparing the bird-repelling dancers to other, less awesome methods of crop protection. It's nice to know there are heroes out there, standing tall and watching over our precious wine crops. And flailing like nobody's watching. [The Wall Street Journal]

Image: Shutterstock / Lawrence Wee