Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Scarecrow – Endangered Folk Art


Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday      

Love that scarecrow (banbanti Ilk.).  It is folk art on the farm. In the middle of the field it feigns scary to birds, what with those outstretched arms and that mysterious face hidden beneath a wide brim hat. There it stands tall amid maturing grains, keeping finches or maya birds (Lonchura Malacca jagori and L. m. formosana) at bay.   

Scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield at harvestime.

Finches are widely distributed in Asia and the Pacific feeding on rice grains, and alternately on weed seeds, but now and then they also steal from the haystack (mandala) and poultry houses. They are recognized for their chestnut colored compact bodies, and sturdy triangular beak designed for grain picking and husking. The scarecrow also guards against the house sparrow, mayan costa (billit China Ilk.), including the loveable turtle dove or bato-bato (Streptopelia bitorquata dursummieri), all grain feeders. 

Philippine maya bird, national bird of the Philippines - considered a "pest" in rice fields, for which the scarecrow is intended to drive out.   

A scarecrow is usually made of rice hay shaped like a human body wrapped around a T-frame. It is simply dressed up with old shirt and hat.  The idea is to make it look like the farmer that the birds fear.  There is one problem though.  Birds, like the experimental dog of Pavlov (principle of conditional learning), soon  discover the hoax and before the farmer knows it a whole flock of maya is feasting on his ready-to-harvest ricefield.  It is not uncommon to see maya birds bantering around – and even roasting on the scarecrow itself! 


Today the scarecrow is an endangered art.  In its place farmers hang plastic bags, or tie old cassette and video tape along dikes and across the fields.  These create rustling or hissing sound as the wind blows, scaring the birds.  Others use firecrackers and pellet guns. 

At one time I saw a lone scarecrow in the middle of a field. On examining it closely, I found out that it was made of a mannequin dressed the way the fashion world does. It reminded me of the boy who discovered the statue of Venus de Milo in a remote pasture in Greece. On another occasion I saw balloons and styropore balls hanging in poultry and piggery houses, bearing the faces of Jollibee, Power Puff Girls, Batman, Popeye, Mr. Bean and a host of movie and cartoon characters. Interestingly I noticed that the birds were nowhere to be found.

When I told my friend, an entomologist, that these new versions of the scarecrow seem to be effective, he wryly replied, “Maybe there are no more birds left.”  Suddenly I remembered Silent Spring, a prize winning book by Rachel Carson. The birds that herald spring had died of pesticide poisoning.~

Modern scarecrows, though still essentially decoys, seldom take a human shape. On California farmland, highly reflective aluminized PET film ribbons are tied to the plants to create shimmers from the sun. Another approach is automatic noise guns powered by propane gas. One winery in New York uses inflatable tube men or air dancers to scare away birds.

In the United Kingdom, where the use of scarecrows as a protector of crops date from time immemorial, and where dialects were rife, there are a wide range of alternative names such as:
  • Hay-man England
  • Bodach-rocais (lit. "old man of the rooks") Scotland


A scarecrow wearing a helmet (Japan)
  • Kaktadua  Bengali
  • Vogelscheuche German
  • Kakashi Japanese
  • Heo Suabi Korean
  • Orang-Orang Malaysia
  • Tao-tao Philippines
  • Pugalo (Пугало) Russian
  • Espantapájaros Spanish
  • Bù nhìn Vietnamese
  • Flay-crow
  • Bird-scarer
  • Rook-scarer
Korean scarecrows



(Wikipedia; Trudgill, Peter. Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language 
and Society. London: Penguin Books, 2000); Photos from Wikipedia, Internet

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