Robotic Birds are (Really Expensive) Modern-Day Scarecrows

By Kate Knibbs on at

At the Sydney Opera House, seagulls are a bigger nuisance than pitchy tenors. Management is desperate to keep the ravenous sky rats away, so much that they've installed a large robotic bird of prey as a modern-day scarecrow.

They say it costs $6,500 (£3,500). Which seems like a large sum for a bird-scaring machine... but compared to the £9,000 mechanical falcons put up by Scotland's Network Rail to freak out pigeons and other pesky avians at Edinburgh's Waverley train station, it's a bargain.

And these scarecrowbots aren't a novelty; they're a burgeoning industry. The robot birds at the Sydney Opera House and Edinburgh came from Robop, a Scottish bird-scaring-robot maker, has over 70 clients, including Wimbledon, the US Navy, and Johnson & Johnson.

Robop isn't the only scarecrowbot peddler in the (weird) game. A Dutch robotics company called Clear Flight Solutions has been making mechanical birds meant to scare away actual birds since 2012. They focus on remote-controlled drones dressed up like falcons, and want to use them to scare real birds away from dangerous airport paths, and out of farms and landfills.

Robops are super-expensive and marketed towards big companies, but there's also a whole variety of less-expensive products meant for chasing backyard birds away; you can buy mechanical owls to freak out garden-gobbling birds.

Don't think that these bird-scaring robots are always effective. A Sydney Opera House representative wasn't exactly singing their robo-bird's praises. "None, including the mock bird of prey, has proved very effective", she told SMH about attempts to banish seagulls. [SMH]