Physical management of pest birds in agricultural settings

Physical management of pest birds in agricultural settings

FS294E
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Tyler Caskin, M.S. student, Department of Animal Sciences, Washington State University, Kim Cirillo, B.S. student, Department of Animal Sciences, Washington State University, Dr. Amber Progar, Assistant Professor—Dairy Management Specialist, Department of Animal Sciences, Washington State University
Fruit farmers, dairy producers, and livestock operators endure the costs of damages caused by pest birds present on their farms. This article describes the need for more effective and economically sound physical deterrence methods for pest bird management. The damages caused by pest birds (specifically European starlings) on farms are explained and the ineffectiveness of current physical deterrence management strategies are described. Chemical deterrents are not reviewed in this factsheet. Learn how to mitigate pest birds on farms using innovative deterrence strategies: increase earnings and decrease the health risk posed to producers and consumers.
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Introduction

Since their introduction to the east coast of the United States in the early 20th century, European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) have become an invasive, non-native species causing high-impact economic and ecological damage. Originally, only 16 starlings were brought into North America to provide immigrants with a remnant from their homeland and to control insect populations. However, the starling population rapidly expanded and there are now estimated to be over 200 million starlings in North America (Linz et al. 2007). During certain seasons, specifically fall and winter, the presence of starlings on livestock and crop management operations increases due to the lack of available resources for starlings in their natural environment.
Flocks containing thousands of pest birds can be seen on a farm at any given time. For example, in the mid-1980s, 59–20,000 starlings were counted on various sunflower fields in Ohio over the span of three months (Bruggers et al. 1986; Dolbeer et al. 1986).

Across the United States, crop farms that grow vegetables or grain incidentally provide food opportunities in the winter in the form of winter vegetables or residual post-harvest products, while livestock operations provide feed and desirable roosting habitats (Figure 1).

 

Figure 1. Photograph of pest birds flying over a livestock farm in Eastern Washington.
*Photo taken by Heather Young, Washington State University.

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Issued by Washington State University Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in furtherance of the Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Extension programs and policies are consistent with federal and state laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, sex, religion, age, color, creed, and national or ethnic origin; physical, mental, or sensory disability; marital status or sexual orientation; and status as a Vietnam-era or disabled veteran. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local WSU Extension office. Trade names have been used to simplify information; no endorsement is intended.